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.
- The FCC released the agenda and items to be considered at its October 27 Open Meeting.
- After issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the spring, the FCC will vote on finalizing changes to its rules for video description (the insertion in TV programming of spoken narration of what is happening on the screen to aid blind or visually impaired persons). If the item is adopted, it will, among other things, rename video description as “audio description” and extend the audio description requirements to television markets 61-100 at a rate of ten markets per year. Stations affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox, or NBC in markets 61-70 will have to start complying on January 1, 2021 or on the effective date of the Order, whichever comes later. We covered this proceeding on the Broadcast Law Blog, here. (Report and Order)
- As part of the Commission’s AM revitalization efforts, it will consider allowing AM stations to convert to all-digital broadcasting on a voluntary basis. Currently, AM stations are authorized for either analog or hybrid (combined analog and digital) transmission. This rule change would allow AM stations to transition fully to digital, which would help those stations overcome some of the problems that affect analog AM signals, like interference and lower-quality audio. We took a deeper look at the Report and Order, here. (Report and Order)
- In the latest step in the multi-year effort to increase unlicensed wireless operations in TV “white space,” the Commission will consider an item that allows fixed unlicensed devices operating on channels 2-35 to operate at higher power in “less congested” rural and unserved areas and allow greater antenna heights for these devices. Unlicensed device operators must still cease operations if their operations interfere with an authorized service like, for example, television stations. See our blog post, here, from March where we looked at the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. (Report and Order)
- The window is closing for TV stations repacked after the incentive auction to submit their invoices for reimbursements. Stations in Phases 1 to 5 have until October 8, 2021 to submit invoices for reimbursement. Stations in Phases 6 to 10 have until March 22, 2022. All other entities eligible for reimbursement, including FM and LPTV/translator stations, have until September 5, 2022 to submit their documentation. (Public Notice)
- If you want to start filling in your 2021 calendar, the FCC has released the dates for its 2021 Open Meetings. While the Open Meetings since March have been held remotely, the 2021 meetings are scheduled to be held at the Commission’s new Washington headquarters. (Open Meetings Calendar)
- A low power FM station was hit with a consent decree and $15,000 fine for airing announcements for for-profit entities that violate the non-commercial underwriting rules, violating the cross-ownership rules that prohibit a party from holding an interest in a radio station while also holding an attributable interest in an LPFM, violating the rule that requires LPFMs to file with the FCC when more than 50% of the station’s governing board changes suddenly, and violating the rule against transferring or assigning an LPFM license within three years of issuance. (Order)
- The FCC has named a new point person to oversee its field offices. Axel Rodriguez, the Commission’s new Field Director, will supervise the 13 field offices and its agents and lead efforts to combat pirate radio and other unauthorized spectrum uses and support efforts to restore communications services after disasters. Rodriguez has a background in electrical engineering and served as a cyber warfare officer in the military. (News Release)