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 proposed a $32,000 fine to a subsidiary of Cumulus Media for EEO and public file violations by a group of stations it previously owned. The Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture details the station group’s failure to timely upload one annual EEO report to the stations’ online public files, to timely post the annual report on the stations’ website, and to analyze its EEO program. The stations were nine months late uploading their 2018 EEO report due to employee oversight. The FCC noted that “where lapses occur in maintaining the public file, neither the negligent acts or omissions of station employees or agents, nor the subsequent remedial actions undertaken by the licensee, excuse or nullify a licensee’s rule violation.” The failure to self-analyze its EEO program was based on the failure to catch the late-filed annual report. As there had been several other EEO and sponsorship identification violations by the company over the last 15 years, the FCC increased the base amount of the proposed fine. (Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture)
- The FCC announced that there is sufficient money in the incentive auction reimbursement fund to increase reimbursement allocations for parties affected by the repacking to 100% of verified estimates. The FCC also announced that its contractors will visit a sample of sites to confirm the existence and functionality of equipment paid for from the fund – essentially conducting random audits of the use of the reimbursement funds. Letters to schedule these visits will be sent by both overnight mail and email to the entity’s reimbursement point of contact and counsel of record, and visits are expected to start next month and continue through 2022. Full power and Class A TV stations assigned to repack phases 6-10 must have any remaining invoices or documentation submitted by March 22. (Public Notice)
- Comments were filed in a Forest Service rulemaking proposing to add an annual administrative fee of $1400 per licensed facility using a Forest Service transmitter site. The fee would be in addition to the rent paid to the Forest Service for the use of the site. The NAB comments argued that the same flat fee on every user in every market could discourage broadcasters from providing service to rural area residents, especially in the case where translators and boosters in these areas would be paying the same fees as full-power broadcast stations in major markets. (NAB Comments).
- The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote on March 2 on Gigi Sohn’s nomination to fill the final vacant seat on the FCC. If she receives a favorable committee vote, her nomination will head to the full Senate for consideration and a vote. (Executive Session Notice)
- An Ohio low power FM station’s license renewal application has been set for a hearing to determine if the licensee made misrepresentations and lacked candor in its dealings with the FCC. At issue are the makeup of the licensee’s board of directors and the licensee’s representations to the FCC of who served on its board and when, including in assignment and transfer applications and in multiple written responses to letters of inquiry. These inquiries suggested an unauthorized transfer of control. (Hearing Designation Order)
- A federal appeals court denied the NAB’s attempt to stay the effect of the FCC’s foreign government entity sponsorship identification rules, though the parties are still scheduled to argue the merits of these rules before the Court on April 12. The rules require that stations disclose when programming has been paid for or provided by a foreign governmental entity and take investigatory steps whenever they sell any blocks of program time to determine if any buyer of program time is a representative of a foreign government. The NAB has been arguing that the rules, especially the requirement that all buyers of program blocks be investigated for foreign-government ties, are unduly burdensome and have not been adequately justified. Even though the stay was denied, the new rules are not yet effective while undergoing a Paperwork Reduction Act review.
- We posted on our Broadcast Law Blog our monthly feature on important dates and deadlines for broadcasters in March and early April. These include EAS and Next Gen TV rulemaking comments, a GMR music license deadline for commercial radio stations, an initial filing deadline to participate in an auction for new TV stations (Auction 112), license renewal deadlines, and requirements for the uploading of quarterly issues/programs lists. (Broadcast Law Blog)