In many parts of the country, the air is turning crisp, the leaves are changing color, and kids are back in school (in some form), making it the perfect time to get caught up with regulatory dates and deadlines coming in October. This is an unusual month where there are several routine regulatory deadlines – renewals, EEO filings, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, and the must-carry/retransmission consent deadline, but no significant broadcast rulemaking comment deadlines, perhaps as we are nearing the end of the current administration which might not be around to finish any proceeding started now.
The routine deadlines include those for radio stations in Iowa and Missouri and TV stations in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands who should be putting the finishing touches on their license renewal applications, to be filed on or before October 1, along with the accompanying EEO program report. Stations should also have their post-filing announcements ready and scheduled to begin airing on October 1. Those announcements continue through December 16. Stations are no longer required to air pre-filing announcements. The schedule for post-filing announcements and sample announcement language is here for radio stations and here for TV stations.
Also due by October 1 are EEO public inspection file reports for stations in Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Guam, the Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands that are part of a station employment unit with 5 of more full-time employees. An employment unit is one or more commonly controlled stations in the same geographic area that share at least one employee. By October 1, these reports are to be uploaded to the station’s FCC-hosted online public file and a link to that report needs to be placed on the homepage of the station’s website (if the station has a website). If your station employment unit has fewer than five full-time employees, no report needs to be placed in your public file or on your website.
By October 1, television stations must elect must-carry or retransmission consent for multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) that carry their signals. Full-power and Class A TV stations must place in their online public inspection file by October 1 notice of whether they elect retransmission consent or must-carry carriage from their area’s MVPDs for the three-year cycle beginning on January 1, 2021 and ending December 31, 2023. If the station has decided to change its election, it must notify the MVPD by email, to an address set out in the MVPD’s public file. We summarized this new rule, here.
On or before October 10, all TV and radio stations must upload to their public file their Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists for the 3rd quarter (July, August, and September). The Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists are a station’s evidence of how it operated in the public interest, demonstrating its treatment of its community’s most significant issues. As we have written previously, the FCC takes this requirement seriously and will fine stations, hold up granting license renewals, or both if it finds problems with a station’s compliance. For a short video on complying with the Quarterly Issues/Programs List requirement, see here.
In advance of the FCC’s October 27 Open Meeting, we will be tracking any broadcast items that make it on the agenda. Stay tuned to the blog throughout October for updates.
Looking ahead to early November, we note the closing of the general election lowest unit charge (LUC) window on November 3. There has been a lot of media reporting suggesting that certain races—the presidential race being the highest profile—may not be decided by the 3rd or even the early hours of the 4th. This situation could lead to campaigns continuing to advertise past November 3 to, for example, try to persuade state election officials to certify results, but there is no mechanism in federal law or the FCC’s rules to extend the LUC window past election day. The only exception would be in those races that may have runoff elections occurring after November 3, which are considered new elections so that they would have their own 60-day LUC window.
These are just a few of the regulatory dates we are tracking for October and early November. As always, read the blog and keep in close touch with your station’s counsel to be sure you are staying on top of the dates and deadlines that apply to your operation.