May is one of the few months on the calendar where there are not routine FCC regulatory deadlines. Yet there are still a number of important dates and deadlines this month (and early next) that broadcasters should note. Some of those dates and deadlines are below.
On March 17, the migration of applications and forms from the FCC’s legacy filing portal CDBS to its newer portal LMS will continue. The FCC has announced the transition of many of the forms that had been filed in CDBS, but are now filed by email, to LMS. Perhaps most significantly, this includes filings for Special Temporary Authority (and extensions to such authority and notices of the resumption of authorized operations. See the FCC’s Public Notice on the transition for a complete list of the transitioning forms, notes on the procedures to be used for extensions of applications previously filed in CDBS, and other details.
Throughout May, broadcasters in several states should be aware of the opening of political windows tied to June and early July primary elections. As a refresher, in the forty-five days before a primary election, broadcasters must extend to legally qualified candidates their lowest unit rate and continue to follow all other applicable political broadcasting rules. So the lowest unit rate period will be in effect at some point this month for stations serving states that have primary elections in June and early July (and is already open for states with May primaries). For a deeper dive on how to prepare for the political primary election season, see our post, here, which also includes a link to our comprehensive Political Broadcasting Guide. Take a look at our 2022 Broadcasters’ Calendar to see if your state has an upcoming primary election (though confirm these dates locally as some dates have changed since the calendar was prepared – for instance, just this week, a court ordered the congressional primaries in New York state be postponed from June until August).
Radio and TV stations that received letters telling them that they have been randomly selected for an audit of their EEO performance have through May 5 to post their audit responses to their online public file. As explained in the audit letter (available here), station employment units (a station or stations that share at least one full-time employee, are in the same geographic area, and are under common control) with five or more full-time employees must provide their last two EEO annual public file reports and supporting data that details their compliance with the EEO rules, including documentation of employment outreach efforts to fill full-time openings and information on the non-vacancy specific outreach initiatives they did, like attending job fairs, hosting interns, educating the community about broadcast employment, and training employees to assume more responsibility at their stations. Outreach initiatives must be conducted even if the employment unit had no employment vacancies. If you are required to respond to the audit, make sure you have organized your materials and posted your response by May 5. We took a deeper look on the Blog at the audits and EEO compliance, here.
May 6 at 6 p.m. Eastern is the deadline for entities that filed short-form applications in Auction 112 to submit their upfront payments to the FCC and, if necessary, to correct any problems with their applications. Fourteen applications were filed for the 27 available full-power TV construction permits, with seven applications deemed complete. Six applications were incomplete and must be corrected by 6 p.m. Eastern on May 6. One application was rejected for indicating that the station would be used as a noncommercial educational and, because it was mutually exclusive with an application for a commercial station, the application violates FCC rules. For more information on the auction, see the Public Notice, here, and the lists of accepted, deficient, and rejected applications, here. Bidding will begin on June 7.
At its May 22 Open Meeting, the FCC will vote on updating its rules to allow FM and LPFM license applicants to submit FM antenna directional pattern verification by computer modeling. Under the current rules, the “measured relative field pattern” must be shown by building a full-size mockup of the antenna and supporting structures or by building a scale model of the antenna and structures on a test range or in an anechoic chamber. Read the draft Order, here, and tune in on May 22 to watch the vote.
While not directly a broadcast matter, broadcasters may be interested in watching developments that will follow an oral argument on May 9 when a Texas federal appeals court will consider a Texas state law that prohibits social media platforms from censoring users based on the user’s viewpoint and requires the platforms to publish an acceptable use policy and remove content that violates the policy. The law gives the Texas Attorney General or an individual user the right to bring a legal action against a platform. Tech trade associations NetChoice and CCIA, representing social media companies, have claimed the law violates the US Constitution and various federal laws. Though the law would only be applicable in Texas, if it survives the court challenge, other states could look to pass similar laws. This decision (and decisions already under consideration in states like Florida) could have broader implications on a state’s rights to pass laws trying to guarantee access to media platforms, and even a limited decision could affect broadcast stations active on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Looking ahead to early June, license renewal applications for TV stations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming are due by June 1. Stations should be reviewing their operations and online public files over the next few weeks to ensure that they are complying with all applicable FCC rules and regulations and that their online public files are complete and all documents were uploaded on time. Renewal applications must be accompanied by FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 Broadcast EEO Program Report (except for TV translators). Note that your Broadcast EEO Program Report must include two years of annual EEO public file reports for FCC review, unless your employment unit employs fewer than five full-time employees. Be sure to read the instructions for the license renewal application (TV) and consult with your advisors if you have questions, especially if you have noticed any discrepancies in your online public file or political file.
Also, on or before June 1, all radio and TV station employment units with five or more full-time employees licensed to communities in Arizona, District of
Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming must upload to their online public inspection file an Annual EEO Public File report. This report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022. These licensees must also post on the homepage of their station website (if they have one) a link to the most recent report.
Talk with your station’s legal and technical advisors and make sure to stay on top of the dates and deadlines applicable to your operations. And watch our Broadcast Law Blog for other dates that may arise in the coming month – including upcoming but thus far unannounced deadlines for comments on the testing of GeoBroadcast Solution’s zonecasting system for originating limited amounts of programming on FM boosters (see our reference to those dates in our weekly update, here).