Here are some of the regulatory developments in the last two weeks 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 an order revising its fees for broadcast applications and other filings. The fees were adjusted to reflect the Commission’s accounting of the amount of legal, engineering, and supervisory resources spent on reviewing the filing. For the first time, the fees will include payments for FM translator minor changes. The new fee schedule will go into effect after the FCC has updated its internal systems and notice is published in the Federal Register. (Report and Order)
- The FCC announced that, beginning January 15, it will marginally increase its fines for rule violations to adjust for inflation. (Order)
- For broadcasters who use drones (“unmanned aircraft systems” or “UAS”), the Federal Aviation Administration released two lengthy decisions amending its regulations governing their operations. The new rules mandate a “digital license plate” to identify most drones to enhance security in the industry and pave the way for expanded operations that are currently allowed only through special waivers or exemptions. At the same time, the FAA modified its rules for small UAS, i.e., those weighing less than 55 pounds, to permit qualified operators to fly them over people and moving vehicles and at night without waivers, provided certain conditions are met. An FAA press release with links to the decisions is available here.
- The Federal Trade Commission announced consent decrees with six companies over their marketing of CBD products, finding the advertising of specific health benefits of CBD to be deceptive (FTC Press Release). For more information on these decrees and other cannabis advertising issues for broadcasters, see our blog article here.
- The FCC’s Media Bureau granted a waiver allowing the common ownership of two TV stations in the Lubbock, Texas market even though there would not be eight independent operators in the market after the combination, as required under current FCC ownership rules. The Commission justified the waiver on its “failing station” standard, finding that the acquired station had “been struggling for an extended period of time both in terms of its audience share and in its financial performance.” See the FCC’s letter for the criteria a station must meet to be considered failing and the Video Division’s analysis of this particular transaction.
- In two decisions, the FCC approved foreign ownership of broadcast companies in excess of 25%. Specific FCC approval is required when foreign ownership in a company holding broadcast licenses is proposed to exceed 25%, with the FCC and other government agencies reviewing the national security and public interest implications of the foreign ownership (decisions on Estrella Broadcasting, Inc. and Univision Holdings, Inc.)
- In a reminder to pay attention to filing deadlines, eleven low power TV stations in Florida and Puerto Rico failed to submit renewal applications by their October 1, 2020 filing date and are now in danger of their licenses expiring. (Public Notice) Television stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi and radio stations in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma are next due to file their license renewals, with a deadline of February 1, 2021.
- The FCC released its biennial Communications Marketplace Report that analyzes, among other things, the state of the radio and TV marketplaces. The report is provided to Congress to advise it on economic and competitive trends in regulated industries to provide information for any legislation that it may consider. (2020 Communications Marketplace Report)
For a look ahead, we posted on our blog a review of some of the regulatory dates and deadlines in January and early February of which broadcasters should be aware. In the coming month, among other things, look for a new FCC administration, quarterly issues/programs lists, KidVid reports, comment deadlines for two proceedings, the Supreme Court’s oral argument on multiple ownership issues and, in a number of states, February 1 license renewal and EEO public file report deadlines. (Blog)