Here are some of the regulatory 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 has started planning for its next AM/FM radio auction (Auction 109) scheduled to begin on July 27. Four AM construction permits in the St. Louis area and 136 FM construction permits across the country will be available, with minimum opening bids ranging from $750 to $75,000. Comments and reply comments on the proposed bidding procedures are due by March 15 and March 22, respectively. More details about the auction and proposed bidding procedures can be found, here, and the list of permits to be auctioned is available, here. For more on the filing process and issues to consider, see our article here.
- In preparation for Auction 109, the FCC froze any FM filing that proposes to change one of the available allocations’ channel, class, community of license or reference coordinates. (Public Notice)
- The renewal applications for seven FCC authorizations in Alabama were designated for hearing to determine if their licensee possesses the basic character qualifications to hold an FCC license. The licensee’s principal was convicted of six felonies and imprisoned for these crimes he committed while in the Alabama House of Representatives. This decision serves as a good reminder that, under the FCC’s Character Qualifications Policy Statement, non-FCC misconduct can be grounds to deny FCC licenses and can even prevent a licensee from selling a station as FCC precedent is that someone without the requisite character should not be able to profit from the sale of a government-granted broadcast license (Order). We took a closer look on our blog at some of the FCC’s considerations in enforcing this policy.
- Many television stations took advantage of the FCC’s lifting of its freeze on television applications, including channel changes. This week, numerous proposals for changes in the operating channel of television stations, most proposing changes from VHF to UHF channels better able to operate in a digital environment, were put out for public comment. Notices of nine channel-change proposals filed immediately after the freeze was lifted were included on the FCC’s Daily Digest of its actions on Friday.
- The FCC’s Audio Division denied the application of an FM station seeking a waiver of Commission rules to upgrade its facilities to those that would be allowed under the pending proposal to create a new class of FM stations – Class C4. The letter denying the application said that a waiver for this station would pre-judge the current FCC proceeding which is trying to determine whether to authorize this new class of FM stations (Letter Decision). For more about the proposed Class C4 for FM stations, see our blog article here.
- As the FCC reviews radio license renewals filed in recent months in various midwestern states, this week we have again seen a flurry of consent decrees with broadcasters who could not certify compliance with the political broadcasting rules. These consent decrees require the broadcaster to engage in training for its staff on political broadcasting issues and to report to the FCC for two years on its compliance with the political file rules. See our article here for more information about these consent decrees.
- With Democrats in control of the White House, Congress, and the FCC, we have noted increased interest in the Fairness Doctrine. In light of the many recent articles on the topic, we wrote about the history of the Doctrine and what its reinstatement, however unlikely, would mean for broadcasters. (Blog)