Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions in the last week of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- In connection with the Commission’s required monthly Open Meeting which was held last week, the FCC adopted two items of importance to broadcasters, which we previewed in last week’s update.
- The first item adopted new rules implementing streamlined and standardized public notice obligations associated with various broadcast applications. The revised rules abolish requirements for printed notices in local newspapers and pre-filing announcements for license renewal. (News Release) (Second Report and Order). The effective date of these changes will be announced later, although in a separate Order, the FCC immediately waived the requirement for license renewal pre-filing announcements for all future renewal windows. The requirements for license renewal post-filing announcements are unchanged
- The second item proposed for public comment the amounts of the annual regulatory fees to be paid in September by broadcasters and other FCC-regulated communications entities. In addition to asking for comments on the allocation of the fees to be paid, the FCC asks if it can do anything to assist those who pay the fees in light of the current pandemic. While the FCC is required by Congress to collect the regulatory fees, it asks if there are actions it can take while still complying with its statutory obligations, e.g. by allowing some companies to pay their fees over a greater period of time. The FCC also completed the transition of TV fees to a system based on population in a station’s service area instead of the size of the market in which the station operates. It also reduced the fees to be paid by certain VHF television broadcasters. The comment period for the proposed 2020 regulatory fees will be set after the notice is published in the Federal Register. (Report and Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking).
- The FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released its report on the August 7, 2019 test of the broadcast Emergency Alert System. The report set out concerns identified by the test, including issues with the technical quality of some alerts, the monitoring of the proper sources for the alerts, and the lower participation among low power broadcasters (particularly LPFM licensees). However, the Bureau found that the broadcast-based EAS distribution method is largely effective, as the test reached 82.5% of EAS participants. (Report)
- The initial comment period closed in the FCC’s proceeding on Significant Viewing. As we wrote in the Broadcast Law Blog, the proceeding asked, among other things, for comments as to whether the FCC should update its rules for establishing whether a TV station is “significantly viewed” in a market other than the one in which it is located. A designation of significantly viewed status is important for determining whether a cable or satellite system will carry a TV station in areas that are not part of its home market. (Significant Viewing Comments). Reply comments are due by June 15.
- Last week, the comment period was set in the FCC’s Distributed Transmission System (“DTS”) proceeding. Comments are due by June 12, reply comments are due by July 13. The notice seeks comment on changes to the FCC’s rules on DTS that could expand and improve the coverage of television stations throughout their service areas as the industry begins to deploy the new ATSC 3.0 television transmission technology. We wrote more about this rulemaking at the Broadcast Law Blog. (Federal Register)
- The Commission last week revised its rules governing good faith negotiations for retransmission consent between large station groups and “qualified MVPD buying group.” The revisions were tied to passage of the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 which allowed small cable companies to negotiate jointly for retransmission consent with large broadcast group owners. The Commission defined a “large station group” as one whose individual stations collectively have a national reach of more than 20%, and allowed for the MVPD buying groups to negotiate on behalf of MVPDs that collectively serve no more than 25 percent of the households receiving service from any MVPD in a given local market.” (Report and Order).
And, next week, we expect to be writing about any broadcast issues that the FCC will consider at its June 9 Open meeting. The FCC will announce the agenda for that meeting on May 19.