While summer has started and minds wander to vacation time, there are still many regulatory obligations to which a broadcaster must pay attention in July. To help stay focused, we have written below about some of the important dates and deadlines applicable to broadcasters in July – and a reminder of what to be ready for when the calendar rolls over to August.
The one regular deadline applicable to all full-power and Class A TV broadcasters in July is the July 10 deadline for stations to upload to their online public file their Quarterly Issues Programs lists identifying the issues of importance to their community and the programs that they broadcast in the second quarter of the year that addressed those issues. Prepare these lists carefully and accurately, as they are your only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of your community. You need to first list the significant issues facing the station’s community in the second quarter. Then, for each issue identified, you should list several programs that addressed the issue in some serious way. For each program, the description should include the issue that the program addressed, the name of the program or segment that covered the issue, the date and time the program or segment aired, the duration of the coverage of the issue, and a narrative describing how the issue was treated. Timely uploading of these lists to the station’s online public file is especially important during the ongoing license renewal cycle when FCC staff are looking closely at public file contents. See our article here for more on this obligation.
Also applicable to all stations, even low power FM and low power TV stations, is the obligation that, by July 6, they must renew or update their information in the FCC’s EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form One (see here for a Form One filing guide) in anticipation of the August 11 annual Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System. After canceling last year’s annual national EAS test due to the pandemic, the FCC and FEMA have chosen to move forward with this year’s test on August 11. Note that stations with more than one encoder/decoder should file a separate copy of Form One for each unit. Following the August 11 test, broadcasters must submit Forms Two and Three (see the filing guide here) that include day-of-test information, such as whether your station received and transmitted the test successfully. The FCC also published the 2021 edition of the Emergency Alert System Operating Handbook (download a copy here) that must be maintained by stations and be immediately available to staff responsible for authenticating messages and initiating actions.
July 13 brings a momentous date in the history of television – the end of analog broadcasting. By that date, all analog low power television and TV translator stations must convert to digital transmission or cease operating. Stations that need additional time beyond July 13 to construct their digital facilities and that missed the March 15 extension filing deadline can still request a waiver of the filing deadline. More details can be found in a recent FCC Public Notice. We wrote about the transition, here. Note that any extension only extends the time to build out the digital facilities and does not extend the station’s right to transmit an analog signal beyond July 13. So, after a two-decade process, the transition to digital will be complete this coming month, just as many stations are beginning their next transition to the next generation of television transmission – NextGen TV, ATSC 3.0 (see our article here).
While on the subject of TV transmission standards, after a Congressional inquiry, the FCC is looking at its enforcement of its rules against “loud commercials.” Reply comments are due by July 9 for parties wishing to weigh in on the FCC’s review of the effectiveness of its CALM Act rules that were designed to protect television viewers from excessively loud television commercials. We wrote more about the CALM Act, here, and comments filed in the proceeding can be viewed in MB Docket 21-181. Reply comments in another proceeding of importance to television broadcasters, a review of the accessibility requirements imposed by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) are due on July 6 (see the FCC Public Notice about the deadline for more information). We wrote more about the CVAA and the FCC’s request for comments, here.
At its next required monthly open meeting on July 13, the FCC will vote on opening for public comment several proposals meant to update certain technical rules for radio. Most of the proposed changes would clean up existing rules and eliminate rarely-used and inconsistent provisions. See the draft item, here. Radio broadcasters may also want to watch the action in the FCC’s auction of 136 FM channels and 4 AMs which starts on July 27. Read more about the auction, here and here.
An annual copyright filing window opens this month and extends through early August. Between July 1 and August 2, all television and radio stations that were carried as a “distant signal” by a cable or satellite system during 2020 and that aired a program that the broadcaster produced for which they own the copyright should file a copyright royalty claim form to make a claim to share in the 2020 royalty distribution. For more information about the filing process and to access the electronic filing system when the window opens, visit the Copyright Office’s site here.
Looking ahead to August, radio stations in California and television stations in Illinois and Wisconsin should be working now to get ready to file their license renewal applications on or before August 2. See our article, here, on preparing for license renewal. These stations must also file with the FCC a Broadcast EEO Program Report (Form 2100, Schedule 396) and, if they are part of a station employment unit (a station or a group of commonly owned stations in the same market that share at least one employee) with 5 or more full-time employees, upload to their public file and post on their station website a link to their Annual EEO Public Inspection File report covering their hiring and employment outreach activities for the twelve months from August 1, 2020 to July 31, 2021. License renewal applications and Broadcast EEO Program Reports are filed through the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS) database, so take time in advance of the filing deadline to make sure your login credentials are active and to become familiar with the interface. The LMS Help Center is a good resource.
In addition to the stations noted above filing for license renewal, radio stations in Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin and TV stations in California, North Carolina, and South Carolina must, if they are part of a station employment unit with 5 or more full-time employees, upload to their public file and post on their station website a link to their Annual EEO Public Inspection File report covering their hiring and employment outreach activities for August 1, 2020 through July 31, 2021.
Be sure to stay on top of these dates and deadlines and stay in touch with your station’s communications counsel for the dates applicable to your operations. Stay tuned to our blog, publications that cover the broadcast industry, FCC.gov, and other relevant sources for developments in the broadcast regulatory and legal world throughout the month.