Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions of 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.
- FCC fines against two radio stations serve as a reminder that station managers need to pay close attention to how their staff handles on-air contests. The FCC issued Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeitures to two Texas licensees for allegedly violating the Commission’s on-air contest rules through a failure to conduct the contest substantially as announced, specifically for unreasonable delays in awarding prizes. Both licensees were hit with several thousand dollars of fines even after settling the matter with the contest winners. Both licensees pointed to human error as the reason for the mistakes, but as the decisions show, that is not an excuse. (El Paso NALF) (Mont Belvieu NALF) (Broadcast Law Blog)
- The FCC’s International Bureau released a preliminary list of C-Band earth stations (those that operate in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band) in the contiguous U.S. that the Bureau has reviewed and said appear to qualify as “incumbent earth stations,” which will be eligible for reimbursement for reasonable costs of changes to their facilities caused by the upcoming repacking of the C-Band. The C-Band will be partially reallocated for use by wireless carriers, requiring changes in many existing earth stations. All broadcasters who have registered earth stations should immediately review this list and act, if necessary – corrections must be submitted to the FCC by July 16, 2020. Instructions for submitting corrections are found in the Public Notice. (Public Notice) (PDF of Preliminary List w/ Explanatory Notes) (Xlsx of Preliminary List) (Broadcast Law Blog)
- The U.S. Copyright Office has extended, until April 15, 2021, the deadline for the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board on rates to be paid to SoundExchange for royalties for the use of sound recordings in non-interactive audio streaming. This extension was because of the delays in the CRB’s trial due to the pandemic. The January 1, 2021 effective date for the new rates, however, remains in place, so any decision released later in 2021 will be retroactive. In January, webcasters and other internet radio operators (including broadcasters who stream their signals) will continue to pay the royalties currently in place, and there will be a mechanism for a true up of the amounts due once the decision on the royalties for 2021-2025 becomes effective. (Copyright Office Extension) (Broadcast Law Blog)
- The Audio Division updated the FM Table of Allotments to reinstate fourteen vacant FM allotments. The allotments were removed from the FM Table because a construction permit and/or license was granted, but are now vacant because of the cancellation of the associated authorizations or the dismissal of long-form auction applications. The reinstated allotments are in California, Colorado, Iowa, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These channels will be available for application in an FM auction at some point in the future. (Order)
- Citing the ongoing public health emergency and the decision to not conduct a national EAS test in 2020 (see our article here), the FCC has waived for this year the requirement that broadcasters update their information in the EAS Test Reporting System. (Order)
- Those looking to file hand-carried documents with the FCC will have to permanently update their address book. After temporarily closing the filing window at FCC Headquarters in response to COVID-19, the Commission has now permanently closed that window and will only accept paper filings at 9050 Junction Drive, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701. This change was made to enhance security and in conjunction with the Commission’s future move to its new headquarters. (Public Notice) (See our article here about the FCC’s planned move).