With a number of upcoming regulatory deadlines approaching, we thought that this would be a good time to remind broadcasters of regulatory obligations that they may have, with the passage of time, forgotten. One of those obligations is the requirement to file EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form One by February 28, 2023 – next Tuesday. Filing instructions are provided in the Public Notice issued by the FCC earlier this year (see also our articles here and here). All EAS Participants – including Low Power FM stations (LPFM), Class D non-commercial educational FM stations, and EAS Participants that are silent pursuant to a grant of Special Temporary Authority – are required to register and file in ETRS, with the following exceptions: Analog and digital low power television (LPTV) stations that operate as television broadcast translator stations, FM broadcast booster stations and FM translator stations that entirely rebroadcast the programming of other local FM broadcast stations, and analog and digital broadcast stations that operate as satellites or repeaters of a hub station (or common studio or control point if there is no hub station) and rebroadcast 100 percent of the programming of the hub station (or common studio or control point). This form provides basic information about EAS participants to the FCC. The form requests basic information about contact persons at a station, the model of EAS equipment used, and monitoring assignments under the legacy EAS system. In effect, it registers all EAS users in the ETRS system so that they can file reports on (using ETRS Forms Two and Three) about the performance of Nationwide EAS tests that are periodically conducted. We are expecting a Nationwide Test in 2023. While the FCC has not in the past fined stations who failed to file these reports, there are indications that the filing requirement may be taken much more seriously this year. So, remember to file – and carefully read the Public Notice and the form to make sure that all necessary information is properly uploaded.
On the subject of EAS, the FCC recently released a new 2023 version of the EAS Operating Handbook. A copy of the Handbook must be located at normal duty positions of station operators or at the location of EAS equipment where it can be immediately available to staff responsible for authenticating messages and initiating actions. The handbook provides duty operators information about what to do when EAS alerts (tests or real activations of the system) are received by the station. The new handbook updates the old handbook in a limited fashion, but it also provides stations an opportunity to update their own practices as the Handbook requires that the broadcaster provide information in spaces provided in the Handbook as to the broadcaster’s specific equipment and procedures at their stations. Stations should download this Handbook and make sure that it is available as required.
February 28 is also the deadline for filing documents in the FCC’s LMS system and uploading materials to the online public files of stations that had trouble previously meeting filing requirements because the FCC’s LMS and public file systems were experiencing substantial technical issues in the first part of this new year. The February 28 deadline applies to all public file documents due in January, including TV license renewal applications (including the associated Equal Employment Opportunity Report (Form 2100, Schedule 396)) for television stations, LPTV stations, TV translators and Class A stations in New York and New Jersey (which had been due February 1); Annual Children’s Programming Reports (which had been due on January 30); and EEO Public File Reports for broadcast employment units with 5 or more full-time employees in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma (reports that normally would have had to have been uploaded to a station’s public file by February 1). Quarterly Issues Programs lists for all broadcast stations had been due to be uploaded to the public file by January 10, but that date was initially extended until January 31, and the deadline was further extended to February 28 by last month’s Public Notice. Note that the Public Notice was broad, stating that any public file document due to be uploaded or any FCC application to be filed through LMS must be filed by February 28. Don’t wait until next Tuesday to try to file these documents, as the system could again suffer if there are too many users trying to file at the same time. For more details about the extension and about other technical issues with the FCC’s filing systems, see the article we published last month on this subject.
It is a busy week for these routine FCC filings. Don’t let these compliance obligations slip by as we are approaching the end of this short month.