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.
- Two Federal Register notices set dates for changes to the FCC’s EAS rules. We wrote about these issues here and here.
- One notice set an effective date of September 20, 2021for rule changes expanding FEMA’s ability to send emergency alerts during national emergencies and requesting that States that don’t have effective State Emergency Communications Committees (SECC) activate one. Other rules changes adopted at the same time will take effect after further Paperwork Reduction Act review and approval. These include rule changes allowing government entities to report false EAS alerts to the FCC, requiring submission of State EAS plans to the FCC for its review, requesting annual updates to State EAS plans, and mandating annual SECC meetings. (Federal Register)
- A second Federal Register notice announced that the FCC will accept comments through October 19 and reply comments through November 18 on several other EAS changes, including whether to delete, redefine, or replace certain EAS codes that are no longer relevant or may cause confusion, and whether to update EAS to support “persistent” alerts that continue to be transmitted through EAS for the duration of an emergency involving possible loss of life.
- The FCC proposed a $3,500 fine against the licensee of a new Oklahoma FM translator for its failure to file a license application and for its subsequent unlicensed operation after the completion of its construction. As a reminder, when you have a construction permit for a new station and complete construction, you need to file with the FCC a license application certifying that construction was compete in the manner set out in the permit – for translators, before commencing operations. (Notice of Apparent Liability)
- Two radio stations entered into consent decrees with the FCC over their failure to comply with the FCC’s online public file rules and, in one case, failure to file biennial ownership reports. In the first case, a commercial station appears to have failed to upload any quarterly issues/programs lists. (Georgia Consent Decree) In the second case, a noncommercial station appears to have not uploaded any quarterly issues/programs lists or filed any biennial ownership reports for the entirety of its license period. (Montana Consent Decree). In each case, the consent decrees impose reporting conditions and other paperwork requirements so that the FCC can more closely supervise the operations of the stations in the future. These decisions are another reminder that you need to be sure your station’s online public file is complete and accurate, as the FCC will scrutinize it when it processes your license renewal application.
- The FCC issued a Public Notice setting out a dispute resolution process for the reimbursement due to C-band satellite dish operators by the satellite companies for costs the dish operators incur as a result of the partial repurposing of the C-band so that it can be used by wireless carriers. This notice should serve as a reminder that the transition deadline for C-Band operators in Phase I markets is December 5, 2021 (Phase 1 stations are located in Partial Economic Areas 1-50, except stations in the Washington, DC area and certain counties in Georgia, Colorado, and Hawaii – see a PEA list here). By that date, C-band earth stations in Phase I markets need to install filters or make other changes to avoid interference from the new wireless users. The transition deadline for the remaining markets is December 5, 2023.
- In the last two weeks, the FCC’s reimbursement coordinator, RPC, has begun emailing entities holding C-band earth station authorizations, alerting them that RPC has begun to accept claims for C-band transition reimbursements, including for lump sum payments. To be reimbursed, C-band operators need to set up an account in RPC’s Coupa payment system. See RPC’s site here for a flow chart of the reimbursement process plus information on setting up an account and on dispute resolution. When RPC will begin paying out the reimbursements is, at this point, still not known.
- On our Broadcast Law Blog, we this week summarized recently introduced legislation to bring back the minority tax certificate which, if adopted, would allow the seller of a broadcast station to defer any gains from the sale if the buyer is controlled by women or members of socially disadvantaged groups. (Broadcast Law Blog article)