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 and FEMA conducted their annual Nationwide Test of the EAS system on Wednesday, August 11. All broadcasters should have submitted “day of” test results in the FCC’s ETRS system by Thursday, August 12, and are required to provide more detailed information about the test results in ETRS Form Three due by September 27, 2021. (FEMA/FCC Announcement)
- The FCC this week announced the close of Auction 109, which offered for sale construction permits for 139 new radio stations – 4 AM stations in the St. Louis area whose licenses were surrendered by the prior licensee, and 135 new FM channels. 97 of the channels were sold but 42, including the AM stations, went unsold. The FCC’s announcement also sets post-auction deadlines for winning bidders to submit their payments and long-form applications for the channels that they won. The full auction results can be seen on the FCC’s auction site here. The FCC will raise $12,344,110 from the auction – though over $9,000,000 of that is to be paid for two channels – over $6 million for a Sacramento FM and over $3 million for an FM to be licensed to a community just north of the Dallas metro. (Public Notice of Closing of Auction and post-auction deadlines). See our Broadcast Law Blog article here about the implications of the large number of unsold channels.
- The FCC issued a Public Notice reminding all full-power and Class A TV stations that were repacked in Phases 1 through 5 of the post-incentive auction repacking of the TV band (and repacked stations that were granted permission to transition prior to Phase 1) that they must submit all remaining invoices for reimbursement from the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund no later than October 8, 2021. The remaining full-power stations must submit their reimbursement requests by March 22, 2022, with others eligible to receive repacking funds (LPTV and TV translator stations as well as radio and MVPD claimants) needing to submit their reimbursement requests by September 5, 2022. (Public Notice)
- Bills were introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate seeking to bring back the minority tax certificate, providing a deferral of taxable gain to the seller of a broadcast station who sells their station to a buyer controlled by “socially disadvantaged individuals.” These individuals are defined as women and members of groups that have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias – such groups to be defined by FCC rulemaking. (Press Release). See our article here for more information about the background of the tax certificate.
- The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) filed a petition with the US Court of Appeals seeking review of recently adopted FCC rules which these groups argue impose unnecessary burdens on broadcasters to conduct inquiries about any entity that leases program time on broadcast stations to see if the entity must be identified on the air as a representative of a foreign government. (Press Release and Petition)
- The FCC issued notices of violations to the operator of two FM translators that were operating with unmodulated signals at times when their primary station was silent. (sample Notice of Violation). These notices remind FM translator operators that their stations must shut down if they do not receive a signal on their input channel.
- We alerted website owners to a recent court decision suggesting that embedding pictures or video hosted by a social media site on their website without permission of the copyright owner may not excuse the website from liability for copyright infringement. Old court decisions that suggest that no liability would arise unless the copyrighted content is hosted on the server controlled by the website owner may no longer be good law. In the recent court decision, the judge found that, if a website viewer would assume that a picture or video has been provided by the website owner, that owner should get permission of the copyright owner before displaying the content on their site. (Broadcast Law Blog article)