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 November 17, the FCC’s Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Second NPRM”) on foreign government sponsored programming was published in the Federal Register. The Second NPRM seeks comment on proposals to enhance the FCC’s requirements that each broadcaster verify whether any program time that it sells to third parties (or any pre-produced programming that it receives for free) does not come from a “foreign government entity,” i.e., a foreign government or one of its agents. The Federal Register publication sets the comment dates for the Second NPRM – with initial comments due December 19, 2022, and reply comments due by January 3, 2023. In the Second NPRM, the FCC proposes, among other things, that a licensee certify that it has informed any buyer of program time of the foreign sponsorship identification rules and obtained, or sought to obtain, a certification from the program buyer stating, with standardized language proposed by the FCC, whether the buyer is or is not a “foreign governmental entity.” The FCC also proposes to require that all of those certifications be included in a station’s online public inspection file. For further background on this proceeding and its implications for broadcasters, see our articles here and here.
- At the November 17 regular monthly open meeting of the FCC, the Commissioners unanimously adopted a Report and Order to update its rules to identify Nielsen’s monthly Local TV Station Information Report (“Local TV Report”) as the new publication for determining a television station’s designated market area (“DMA”) for satellite and cable carriage purposes, in place of the Nielsen Annual Station Index and Household Estimates currently referenced in the rules. Also, in response to concerns raised by Commissioner Simington, the Commission committed to monitoring the broadcast audience measurement market. It encouraged stakeholders to keep the FCC apprised of changes in that market. For further background about this proceeding, see our article here.
- The FCC’s Media Bureau announced that the FCC’s new FM broadcast directional antenna verification rules went into effect on November 10, 2022. These new rules allow for FM and LPFM directional antenna pattern proofing by computer modeling performed by the directional antenna’s manufacturer. Under the old rules, an FM or LPFM directional antenna’s performance measured relative field pattern had to be verified using either a full-scale mockup or a scale model on a test range or in an anechoic chamber. The rule change brings the FM rules in line with those for AM and DTV directional antennas.
- In a speech at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, Commissioner Simington proposed that the FCC renew its efforts to help AM radio. Among his proposals were a revamping of FCC regulatory fees to ease the burden on broadcasters, encouragement of auto manufacturers to retain or include AM in new cars, and FCC study of AM receiver standards. He also suggested that the FCC once again look at the potential for activating FM chips in mobile devices. Watch to see if these ideas proceed at the FCC.
- In two recent speeches to Washington groups, including one delivered last week to the Media Institute, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks talked about the opportunities presented by ATSC 3.0, NextGen TV. In both speeches he cautioned that, while the technology offers many benefits, there are concerns that its capabilities to interact with internet technologies could impinge on consumer privacy. He suggested that the FCC should review whether privacy rules need to be adopted to govern the use of any consumer information gathered through this new technology.
- Last week, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act of 2022 (“CVTAA”)(a press release summarizes the goals). Among the proposals in the legislation is the extension of closed captioning obligations and the requirement for audio description of video programming to online video providers. The legislation would also require the FCC to review the rules it has on the quality of closed captioning. While it is late in the legislative session and this proposal is unlikely to advance before the end of this Congress, look for these concepts to reemerge in the new session of Congress that begins in January.