November lacks the usual set of deadlines for routine FCC filings, but there are nevertheless a number of regulatory dates that warrant attention. And come the first of December, those regular filing deadlines return to the calendar.
November brings comment deadlines in at least two FCC proceedings relevant to broadcasters. On November 7, reply comments are due with respect to the FCC’s Order and Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (on which we previously reported) to delete or revise analog rules for Low Power TV and TV translator stations that the FCC believes no longer have any practical effect or that are otherwise obsolete or irrelevant after the transition of these stations to digital operation. November 25 is the deadline for reply comments in the FCC’s request for comment on the methodology that it uses to allocate its employees to determine annual regulatory fees (see article here). Broadcasters have felt that their fees have increased more than their fair share – but other regulated services likely complain about their share of the fees as well. Because the FCC allocates the fee obligation based on the number of its employees who spend time on regulatory duties regarding a particular regulated industry, this proceeding looking to allocate how employees are allotted is very important.
Another rulemaking proceeding will likely be concluded in November. The FCC last week announced that the agenda for its November 17 regular monthly open meeting will include consideration of a Report and Order (a draft of which was released last week) that would update the FCC’s rules to identify a new publication for determining a television station’s designated market area (“DMA”) for satellite and cable carriage purposes. Current FCC rules direct commercial TV stations to use Nielsen’s Annual Station Index and Household Estimates to determine their DMA, and stations rely on these determinations when they seek carriage on cable and satellite systems. Nielsen, however, has replaced the Annual Station Index and Household Estimates with a monthly Local TV Station Information Report (“Local TV Report”). The Order, if adopted as drafted, would (i) revise the FCC’s rules to eliminate references to the Annual Station Index and Household Estimates and instead direct broadcasters to the Local TV Report – specifically, the October Local TV Report published two years prior to each triennial carriage election; and (ii) conclude that the Local TV Report should be used to define “local market” in other statutory provisions and rules relating to carriage (e.g., retransmission consent, distant signals, significantly viewed, and field strength contour). For further background regarding this proceeding, see our article here.
There is one set of routine regulatory deadlines that ended up in November because of an extension granted by the FCC to stations affected by a recent hurricane. As we noted here, the FCC has given stations in Puerto Rico an extension until November 14 to upload their Quarterly Issues Programs lists (which, without the extension, would have been due to be uploaded to station public files by October 10) because of the effects of Hurricane Fiona. The FCC issued a similar extension to December 12 for stations in Florida and South Carolina who suffered the effects of Hurricane Ian. Such stations in Florida also may upload their EEO public file by December 12.
With election day approaching (November 8), stations should continue to remember their obligations to give all candidates – federal, state and local – lowest unit rates when they buy advertising for their campaigns (see our articles here and here). Similarly, stations need to remember to be uploading to their public file information about the price, schedule and class of time purchased by any candidate or any federal issue advertiser to their online public file within one business day of the date on which the order for that time was received. For more on political file issues, see this article with a link to a video of a training session that I conducted explaining all of these political file requirements.
Daylight Savings Time ends on November 6, and thus AM daytime-only radio stations and stations operating with pre-sunrise and/or post-sunset authority should check their sign-on and sign-off times on their current FCC authorizations to ensure continued compliance with the FCC’s rules. Note that all times listed in FCC licenses are standard time.
Lastly, the Federal Trade Commission has an ongoing proceeding seeking additional public comment on how children are affected by digital advertising and marketing messages that may blur the line between ads and entertainment (see their announcement about the proceeding). The public will have until November 18, 2022 to submit comments. Information on how to submit comments is available on here.
Looking ahead to the early days of next month, December 1 brings the deadline for license renewal applications for Television, Class A, LPTV, and TV Translator Stations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. That is also the date for uploading to their online public file Annual EEO Public File Reports by all radio and television stations in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont that are part of Station Employment Units with 5 or more full-time employees (a “station employment unit” is a station or cluster of stations in the same geographic areas that are under common control and share at least one full-time employee). These licensees must also post on the homepage of their station website (if they have one) a link to their most recent EEO Public File report.
December 1 is also the deadline for the filing of FCC Form 2100, Schedule G, Annual DTV Ancillary/Supplementary Services Report for the 12-Month Period Ending on September 30, 2022, and the submission of any payments that are due. This applies to Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power stations, Class A TV stations, and LPTV stations that have fee-based, non-broadcast revenues from their digital transmission capabilities. In other words, if TV stations earned fees for data transmission or other non-broadcast services, they must file the report and pay the fees; otherwise the report is not required.
As always, this list of dates is not exhaustive and comment deadlines can change. Always review these dates with your legal and technical advisors, and note other dates not listed here that may be relevant to your operations.