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 its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing the annual regulatory fees to be paid by September 30, the end of the government’s fiscal year, by broadcasters and others regulated by the FCC. Public comment on the FCC’s proposal is due July 5, 2022, with replies due by July 18 (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking). The NAB issued a statement attacking the proposed 13% increase in the fees to be paid by radio stations as “an unjustified increase” that would be “devasting” to local radio services (NAB Statement). A decision on the final amount of the proposed fees is routinely released in late August or very early September so that fees can be paid before the October 1 start of the new fiscal year.
- In connection with the proposed acquisition of the Tegna TV stations by Standard General, L.P., the FCC issued a letter request asking for significant additional information about the pending application – including documents submitted to the Department of Justice in connection with the Hart-Scott-Rodino filing that seeks antitrust approval for the deal. The HSR documents include internal memos and documents submitted to funding sources that outline the competitive impact of the proposed transaction. The FCC request also asks for a description of the public interest benefits of the proposed transaction, and the impact it would have on employment at the stations to be acquired (FCC Request). This is information not routinely sought by the FCC in the assessment of a broadcast acquisition.
- The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued another letter to a landowner in Baltimore whose property was believed to be home to a pirate radio operation. The letter gives the property owner 10 days to respond, and notes that hosting a pirate radio station can lead to a $2,000,000 fine (Letter). We recently wrote on our Broadcast Law Blog, here, about other landowners who received similar letters when they were identified as hosting pirate radio operations.
- Following Federal Register publication, new FCC rules became effective, making it clear that broadcasters and cable companies have obligations to post information to their online public file about advertising that runs on their stations addressing federal issues (Public Notice). As we wrote here when these rule changes were initially announced, they have little practical effect as their requirements were already spelled out in the Communications Act, and the FCC already enforced the Act’s requirements. The changes just made the FCC’s rules conform to the language of the Act.
- The FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on unlicensed “white spaces” devices that operate in the TV Band was published in the Federal Register, setting the deadline for public comment as July 1, with reply comments due August 1 (Federal Register). The FCC earlier this year adopted new rules that require fixed and certain personal/portable white space devices to check white space databases at least once per hour for other spectrum users to be protected from interference, replacing a prior rule that had not been enforced requiring the databases to push information to white spaces devices whenever there was a new wireless microphone or other protected use in the area in which the white space device was operating. This Further Notice seeks comments on whether “unlicensed narrowband white space devices” should be subject to the same hourly requirement to check white space databases as other users or whether some other monitoring obligation should apply.