Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past two weeks, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- The FCC has issued a Public Notice confirming the comment and reply comment dates for its Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the adoption of ATSC 3.0. Comments are due August 8, 2022, and reply comments are due September 6, 2022. As we reported in our last weekly update, the Third Further Notice seeks comment on the status of the Next Gen TV rollout and on certain specific issues including (1) the scheduled 2023 sunset of the requirement that a Next Gen TV station’s ATSC 1.0 simulcast primary video programming stream be “substantially similar” to its 3.0 primary programming stream, (2) the scheduled 2023 sunset of the requirement that a Next Gen TV station comply with the current ATSC A/322 technical standard, and (3) whether the FCC needs to take any action to insure that the patent rights in ATSC 3.0 technologies are being fairly licensed.
- The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau issued a Public Notice offering assistance to any State Emergency Communications Committee that had not filed an updated State EAS Plan with the FCC. These updated EAS plans were due to be filed on July 5. Broadcasters should insure they understand how any changes to their state’s plan affect their EAS obligations, including whether any changes have been made to the stations that they are to monitor to receive EAS alerts in their area.
- The FCC issued its final agenda for next week’s monthly open meeting on July 14, 2022. As we have previously reported, the FCC is scheduled to consider whether to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on whether to update its rules to identify a new Nielson publication for determining a television station’s designated market area (“DMA”) for satellite and cable carriage purposes, and an Order and Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the TV digital conversion. The Order and Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would update the FCC’s rules to eliminate analog rules to reflect the recent termination of analog operations by LPTV and television translator stations.
- July 18, 2022 is the reply comment deadline for the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the FCC’s proposed regulatory fees for fiscal year 2022. In initial comments filed this week, the NAB argued that the FCC’s methodology for imposing the fees on broadcasters was inexplicable as it raised fees on broadcasters by 13% while the FCC budget which the fees are to reimburse only increased by 2.1%. The NAB made specific arguments as to where it believes the FCC misallocated its costs to broadcasters when computing the fees. The state broadcast associations jointly filed comments expressing many of the same concerns. The fees that the FCC is proposing for television and radio stations are set forth in Appendix C and Appendix G of the NPRM. In the NPRM, the FCC specifically sought comments on the mechanism it uses to calculate the regulatory fees for television stations based on the population-based methodology it adopted several years ago. While no specific issues on radio fees were teed up for comment by the NPRM, the broadcasters’ comments, as noted above, complain that the fees as proposed are too high.
- The FCC issued a Public Notice with its quarterly summary of the number of broadcast stations in the country. This notice shows that the number of full-power and Class A TV stations is almost identical to that shown in the pre-pandemic June 2019 Public Notice. There are about 135 fewer full-power radio stations, principally due to there being over 200 fewer AM stations.
- The FCC’s Media Bureau entered into five consent decrees with radio licensees to resolve investigations into their online political files. In all five cases (available here, here, here, here and here), the licensees admitted that they had failed to timely place records of all requests for the purchase of political broadcast time in their political files in a timely manner, in violation of section 315(e)(3) of the Communications Act and Section 73.1943(c) of the FCC’s rules. Noting, however, the licensees’ disclosures in their license renewal applications and the financial stress suffered by the radio industry due to the COVID pandemic, the Bureau did not impose financial penalties on the licensees, opting to only require them to implement a comprehensive compliance plan. The continuing issuance of these consent decrees and their paperwork obligations reminds broadcasters of the importance that the FCC places on orders for political time being uploaded immediately (within one business day) into the political broadcasting section of a station’s online public inspection file.