Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- The FCC’s new rules that permit AM broadcasters to convert to all-digital operations became effective April 29. The new rules require the filing of the FCC’s Digital Notification Form (Form 335-AM) within 10 days of the start of all-digital AM operations. A station converting to all-digital operations must run on-air notices for 30 days before converting to alert analog listeners of their plans. See our blog post, here, for more on all-digital AM. (Public Notice)
- The FCC released a guide summarizing TV closed captioning quality standards (accuracy, synchronicity, completeness, and placement). The guide includes best practices and discusses how TV stations must monitor and maintain their equipment and signal transmissions associated with closed captioning, perform technical equipment checks, take any corrective measures necessary to ensure that captioning is passed through to viewers intact, and keep records of these activities for a minimum of two years. The guide serves as a good reminder to TV stations of their closed captioning obligations. (Closed Captioning Compliance Guide)
- The application window is now open for parties interested in participating in the FCC’s upcoming auction of construction permits authorizing the construction of 136 new FM stations and 4 AMs (Auction 109). The application window will close on May 11 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. (FCC Auction 109 Page)
- Following the Supreme Court decision reinstating the FCC’s 2017 changes in its ownership rules, which also reinstated the FCC’s incubator program (see our article here), the FCC noted that the broadcast interests of certain investors in auction applicants classified as “eligible entities” under that program may not need to be counted against the applicant if it is seeking bidding credits in the auction for having three or fewer other broadcast interests. The application of these rules is very fact dependent so consult your attorney for advice on how this change might affect your status in the auction. (Public Notice)
- New radiofrequency (RF) exposure rules, adopted in 2019, will go into effect on May 3, 2021, requiring that all new facilities must comply with the new rules beginning May 3, 2021 and providing a two-year compliance transition period for existing facilities. The new rules include updated signage requirements for areas of high RF radiation. They also make changes to the “categorical exemption” or “categorical exclusion” rules by which some facilities were exempted from demonstrating compliance with RF exposure limits. (Public Notice)
- The FCC cleaned up its retransmission consent rules to make them consistent with certain statutory changes, making clear that the requirement for parties to negotiate retransmission consent agreements in good faith and the prohibition on exclusive agreements will continue indefinitely. The language of the FCC rules, which was based on prior statutory language, suggested that these provisions terminated on January 1, 2020. This week, the FCC made clear that they have no expiration date and thus remain in effect. (Order)
For more on upcoming regulatory dates and deadlines coming up in May and early June, read this article. These dates include the close of the application window for Auction 109, the effective date for new distributed transmission systems rules, and upcoming license renewal and EEO deadlines.