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 issued a Public Notice urging all communications companies to take steps to ensure the security of their facilities and operating systems. The Notice points to an advisory, Understanding and Mitigating Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Threats to U.S. Critical Infrastructure, authored by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and National Security Agency (NSA), setting out threats and steps to take to mitigate risks. As several broadcast companies, large and small, have suffered from cyber attacks in recent years, broadcast companies should carefully review this notice.
- The FCC reminded full power and Class A TV stations that were assigned transition completion dates in phases 6-10 of the incentive auction repack that they must submit all remaining invoices and documentation for reimbursement by March 22, 2022. FM stations and LPTV/translator stations seeking repack reimbursement must submit all remaining invoices and documentation by September 6, 2022. (Public Notice)
- The FCC issued a reminder that broadcasters who need help initiating, resuming, or maintaining service as a result of winter weather (or other emergencies) can contact the FCC Operations Center for assistance at 202-418-1122 or by e-mail at FCCOPS@fcc.gov. (Public Notice)
- The FCC released the final Agenda for its upcoming required monthly open meeting. Two items on the agenda are of particular interest to broadcasters. Tune in to the live stream on January 27 at 10:30am Eastern to watch the meeting where these topics will be discussed:
- The first item is two minor changes to the political broadcasting rules. The first change is to include social media activity and a campaign website in the criteria that broadcasters must consider when determining if a write-in candidate has made a “substantial showing” that they are a legally qualified candidate. Legally qualified candidates receive the benefits and protections of the FCC’s political broadcasting rules. The second change brings the FCC’s rules in line with existing federal statutory requirements by requiring stations to upload to their political file information about advertising on federal issue ads. Broadcasters are already required to do this, so this rule change does not change a station’s recordkeeping obligations. For more information, see our blog post, here.
- The second item modifies the FCC’s rules to allow for better use of “white space” spectrum (portions of the VHF and UHF broadcast TV bands at locations where frequencies were not being used by TV broadcasters). The FCC plans changes to how white space devices would receive operational information from white space databases about the use of wireless microphones in the areas where the devices operate. The new rules would require that the devices check the databases at least once per hour, replacing a current rule that has not been enforced which requires the databases to push information about wireless microphone use whenever there is new microphone use in the area. The FCC believes this will better protect wireless microphones (used for newsgathering and other unplanned purposes) as push notifications might not be received by all the white spaces devices (and verifying receipt of such notices might not be technically feasible).
- On the Broadcast Law Blog: Our law firm colleague Jonathan Cohen wrote about the state of play in tech regulation and what to watch for in 2022 from the Biden Administration and Congress. Read his post for updates on the likely areas of legislative and regulatory action. (Hot Topic for 2022: Tech Regulation)