Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions and developments 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.
- We noted in last week’s update that the FCC’s Annual Regulatory Fees Order, setting the the fees to be paid by broadcasters by October 1, has been drafted and is likely to be released by the FCC very soon. In advance of the Order being released, NAB CEO Gordon Smith talked with Chairman Ajit Pai and expressed his concern that the proposed fee structure, which is determined by estimates as to how many FCC staffers are detailed to regulating an industry and the related benefit that industry receives, inaccurately reflects the number of employees that work on radio issues. The NAB has been urging the Commission to freeze radio regulatory fees at last year’s amounts rather than increasing the amount of those fees as the Commission proposed in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Watch for a final decision from the FCC on regulatory fees possibly this week. (NAB Phone Call Summary)
- Earth station licensees, including broadcasters who receive satellite-delivered programming, who want to receive a lump sum payment for their costs associated with technical changes made necessary by the upcoming repacking of the C-Band, must make the election to receive that lump-sum payment (instead of having to prove their actual expenses) by September 14. The deadline had been August 31 but was extended this week. (Order). The NAB will be conducting a webinar to explain what this election means (NAB Notice of Webinar).
- Comments were due by Monday, August 17 in the FCC’s Broadcast Internet proceeding (looking at the use of TV ATSC 3.0 spectrum for datacasting). The FCC sought comment on potential real-world uses for broadcast internet and how the FCC might change its rules to foster deployment and adoption of these new services. Reply comments are due by August 31. We took a closer look at this proceeding here and here. (Docket 20-145 Comments)
- Broadcasters and other media groups submitted their reply brief in National Association of Broadcasters, et al. v. Prometheus Radio Project, et al. This is the FCC’s appeal to the Supreme Court of the Third Circuit decision throwing out the FCC’s 2017 order changing many of the broadcast ownership rules – including the abolition of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule. The justices will review the briefs filed in this case and decide this Fall whether to consider the appeal. If they decide to do so, the Court’s decision would likely come in 2021. If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the Third Circuit decision stands, and the FCC will have to come up with a new evaluation of its ownership rules consistent with that decision. You can catch up on the twists and turns of this case here. (Industry Reply Brief)
- With an eye on the November 3 general election and the September 4 opening of the lowest unit charge “political window,” we published to the Broadcast Law Blog a review of the FCC rules and policies that affect the rates a broadcaster can charge for political advertising. (Broadcast Law Blog)
- School administrators across the country are grappling with whether and when students should physically return to schools, with much interest about how college athletics should be handled. Receiving less attention has been how operators of noncommercial stations licensed to educational institutions should navigate the FCC rules on their minimum required operations when students are absent from campus, on a modified attendance schedule, or adhering to other policies that make running a broadcast station difficult or impossible. The FCC in March released guidance for these stations to follow when schools send their students home, namely that college stations could treat campus shutdowns as a “recess period” under the minimum operating schedule rules. Under those rules, during a recess, stations licensed to schools do not need special FCC permission to be silent. On our Blog this past week, we looked at how those FCC minimum operating rules apply to today’s conditions at educational institutions. The facts of each situation will be different, so be sure to get in touch with your station’s FCC lawyer to evaluate your own case.