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.
- A list of “ex parte” presentations made to the FCC (disclosures of presentations made to FCC decision makers outside of a proceeding’s formal comment filing period) was released this week, and it included a summary of meetings between NAB leaders and FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (and members of their staffs) on several pending matters. At these meetings, the NAB asked the FCC to do more to support the TV industry’s transition to ATSC 3.0, including completing its ATSC 3.0 multicast proceeding (which we summarized on our Broadcast Law Blog, here). It also asked that the FCC abandon its rulemaking that would allow FM boosters to originate limited amounts of programming through “zonecasting” technology. (Read more on “zonecasting,” here). Another request was that the Commission wrap up its 2018 Quadrennial Review of broadcast ownership rules, even if the FCC does not soon have its fifth Commissioner in place (as the nomination of Gigi Sohn remains pending in the Senate with the timing of action uncertain). As we noted in one of our recent weekly summaries here, the NAB in February made a written presentation to the FCC arguing that the record developed in the 2018 Quadrennial Review justified substantial relaxation in the radio ownership rules. Finally, the NAB said that, while it does not oppose reinstatement of FCC Form 395-B for collection of industry-wide employment data, the Commission first needs to have concrete plans for the analysis of such data to produce meaningful insights into employment in the broadcast industry (see our article here for more on this pending EEO proposal). (NAB Ex Parte)
- Almost every week, the FCC announces consent decrees with radio station licensees over public file and political file violations discovered through the license renewal process, and this week was no different. If your radio station submitted its license renewal application and had documents missing from its public file or uploaded required documents late, consult your station’s advisors about the potential for a consent decree. Some TV stations have received fines for similar violations. Both types of radio consent decrees include enhanced administrative, recordkeeping, and reporting obligations. (Public File Consent Decree Example) (Political File Consent Decree Example).
- The FCC continues to consider channel changes for TV stations, particularly proposals to allow a station to move from a VHF channel to a UHF one because of the UHF band’s perceived superiority for digital services. The FCC Media Bureau’s Video Division released requests for comments on two such proposals this week.
- The first considers substituting channel 35 for channel 11 in Hampton, Virginia for station WVEC. The request notes that viewers have complained about reception problems with WVEC which do not exist for the other network stations which transmit on UHF channels in the market. (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)
- Augusta, Maine, PBS station WCBB requested that UHF channel 20 be substituted for its current VHF channel 10. To refute concerns about predictions of a loss of service from the channel change, the applicant showed that all but 144 people would receive service from other PBS stations, including other stations owned by the licensee of the Maine PBS station. (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)