Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- On September 2, the FCC released a Report and Order (“R&O”) and Notice of Inquiry adopting the regulatory fee schedule for fiscal year 2022 and seeking comment on issues related to the FCC’s allocation of indirect “full time equivalents” for its employees. Allocation of the FCC’s employees is important because the number of its employees allocated to particular tasks is used as the basis for allocating regulatory fees among the various industries regulated by the FCC. The R&O largely adopts the proposals from the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) released on June 2, 2022 but, notably for radio broadcasters, fees will increase by 7-8% compared to the 12-13% increase proposed in the NPRM. And for full power TV broadcasters, the R&O adopts a factor of .84 of one cent ($.008430) per person served compared to the .88 of one cent proposed in the NPRM. The R&O declined to adopt other broadcaster-specific relief proposals from the National Association of Broadcasters and others, rejecting proposals including one to raise the de minimis threshold above $1,000 and another to exempt broadcasters from the costs associated with the FCC’s broadband data mapping work. The regulatory fees adopted in the R&O will be due in late September 2022 on a date to be announced in a soon-to-be-released public notice.
- On August 31, the FCC’s Media Bureau entered into two consent decrees in connection with its review of the renewal applications of a group of commonly owned FM stations in California. In the first consent decree, five of the six stations conceded that they failed to timely place issues and program lists in their online public inspection files. The Bureau granted the stations’ renewal applications but required that the licensee adopt a comprehensive Compliance Plan to prevent future violations of the FCC’s public file rule. For the same reason, the Bureau entered into a similar separate consent decree consent decree with the sixth station, but also denied an informal objection against the station’s renewal application. The objection alleged that the station had been off the air for 18 months, which would have required the cancellation of the license (required for stations silent for more than a year without a rarely granted public interest exception). The Bureau found that there was insufficient evidence to support this allegation, and instead relied on the station’s certification that it had remained on the air for the requisite period of time.
- On our Broadcast Law Blog, we published our monthly look ahead at the regulatory dates and deadlines for broadcasters in September, including the deadlines for filing for reimbursement of expenses incurred because of the TV incentive auction by radio, LPTV and TV translator stations and the date by which broadcasters are required to have received assurances from all buyers of program time that they are not foreign governments or agents of such governments.