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.
- In a Public Notice released late on Friday, the FCC’s Media Bureau extended the deadline for the upload of Quarterly Issues Programs lists to the online public inspection file of full-power broadcast stations. These reports were due to be uploaded by January 10 but, as the FCC’s online public inspection file system has been experiencing technical difficulties in the new year, the Media Bureau extended the deadline to January 31, 2023.
- The President renominated Gig Sohn for the vacant Commissioner’s seat on the FCC (nomination contained in the list, here). She was initially nominated in 2021, but her nomination was not approved by the Senate before the last session of Congress ended at the end December, and she thus had to be renominated. It is unclear when the Senate will consider the nomination and whether the steps taken to consider her nomination in the prior Congress (including public hearings) will need to be repeated.
- On our Broadcast Law Blog, we posted an article listing many of the issues that will be facing the FCC in the new year, and some of the issues that may be impacted by when the new Commissioner is approved by the Senate.
- The Federal Trade Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which would ban non-compete agreements in all employment contracts (except where related to the sale of a business)(FTC “Fact Sheet” here). The proposed rule would apply to any agreement that has the same effect as a noncompete agreement, including broad nondisclosure agreements that would preclude a worker from working in their field at a new company, or contract clauses that require an employee to repay a company for training costs if the employee leaves the company. The proposed rules would also require that existing contracts be amended to exclude any noncompete language, and workers would have to be informed that any noncompete language is no longer enforceable. The proposed rule would apply not just to employees of a company, but also to independent contractors, interns, and others performing work for a company. Comments will be due 60 days after the publication of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register.
- The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau issued a Public Notice announcing that the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) is now open for the filing of ETRS Form One, with a deadline for submission of February 28, 2023. ETRS is used to report on the results of nationwide EAS tests which assess the ability of the President to get an alert out to the full country. ETRS Form One requests basic information about contact persons at a station, the model of EAS equipment used, and monitoring assignments under the legacy EAS system. The Bureau explains that it is important that EAS Participants confirm that the information they enter is accurate and that they correct any past filing errors. There was no nationwide EAS test during 2022 and, while FEMA has not announced a test date for 2023, one is expected. See the article on our Broadcast Law Blog, here, for more information.
- President Biden signed the Low Power Protection Act, which directs the FCC to start a proceeding to give LPTV stations Class A status if they have provided 3 hours of local programming per week in the 90 days prior to the enactment of the legislation. Class A status means that the stations are protected against interference from any new full-power TV station or other spectrum user. To qualify, the LPTV station must be in a DMA with not more than 95,000 households. That is approximately DMA 175 and smaller.
- The FCC’s adjustment of the maximum amount of FCC fines was published in the Federal Register this week, setting the effective date of these increase as January 15, 2023. The FCC’s Order adjusting these penalties noted that, for most violations, after the effective date of these increases, a fine shall not exceed $59,316 for each violation or each day of a continuing violation, with a maximum total fine for any continuing violation not to exceed $593,170. For fines involving indecency, the fines can be up to $479,945 for each violation or each day of a continuing violation, with a maximum for a continuing violation of $4,430,255 for any single act. For violations of the rules prohibiting pirate radio operations, the fine can be as much as $115,802 per day not to exceed a total of $2,316,034.
- The Video Division of the Media Bureau issued a list of LPTV and TV translator stations in Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington State that did not timely file license renewal applications by the October 3, 2022 deadline. The licenses for these stations (and their operating authority) will expire on February 1, 2023 if no application is on file by that date.