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 Tuesday, January 17, the Public Notice that initiates the 2022 quadrennial review of the FCC’s media ownership rules is to be published in the Federal Register. As a reminder, the Public Notice seeks comment on (i) the Local Radio Ownership, Local Television Ownership, and Dual Network Rules; (ii) the public interest impact of the FCC’s media ownership rules, including changing market conditions; and (iii) the effects of the media ownership rules on the ownership of broadcast stations by minorities and women. The Federal Register publication sets the comment dates for the proceeding. Comments and reply comments will be due March 3 and March 20, respectively. For more background on this proceeding, see our article here.
- The Commission also released a study of Television Station Ownership Diversity conducted by an FCC staff economist. The information provided in that study may be referenced by the FCC in its evaluation of the ownership rules. The study found that, in the last ten years, there has been a decrease in the number of female-, Asian-, and American Indian/Alaska Native-owned stations and an increase in Black/African-American- and Hispanic/Latino-owned stations. It found that most minority-owned station were in smaller markets, but that there was no disparity in their advertising sales compared to stations owned by white men in the same markets. It also found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that most of the biggest billing, large market stations were held by public company with few attributable owners given the broad ownership of such companies.
- The FCC’s Media Bureau continues to make UHF-for-VHF channel substitutions to facilitate better technical service in local markets. This past week the FCC substituted Channel 36 for Channel 10 at Norwell, Massachusetts, and Channel 30 for Channel 5 at Memphis, Tennessee. In the Memphis case, the Commission found that, although there was some predicted loss of service by the channel change, the loss area was already well covered by other broadcast stations, and the licensee had also purchased LPTV stations to provide its programming to the vast majority of the loss area. The FCC also proposed a noncommercial VHF-for-VHF substitution at Roanoke, Virginia, i.e. noncommercial Channel 13 for noncommercial Channel 3, on the theory that allowing the requesting station to move to a high-VHF channel would address viewer complaints about the quality of the station’s signal and thus improve the viewability of the station’s PBS programming. While the Bureau noted that the proposal would cause over 64,000 persons to lose access to the station’s signal, it states that only 94 of those viewers would lose all access to all PBS programming as other PBS stations service most of the loss area.
- The FCC released a Public Notice providing the total number of broadcast stations licensed as of December 31, 2022. That notice continues to show a drop in the number of AM stations compared with the Public Notice released 6 months ago, with a smaller increase in the number of FM stations. Compared to 6 months ago, there are slightly more commercial UHF stations, but slightly fewer commercial VHF stations.
- On our Broadcast Law Blog, we published an article linking to our Broadcasters’ Regulatory Calendar, setting out many of the routine regulatory dates that broadcasters should keep in mind in 2023. These include routine public file uploads of Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and EEO Public File Reports, as well as matters less routine, like the December 1 deadline for Biennial Ownership Reports and this year’s must-carry/retransmission consent elections.