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.
- The Senate Commerce Committee announced that it will hold a hearing on February 14 on the long-delayed nomination of Gigi Sohn for the vacant Commissioner’s seat on the FCC. As we wrote on our Broadcast Law Blog in our January review of the many broadcast issues pending before the FCC, action on controversial issues has been delayed by the current deadlock of two Democratic and two Republican commissioners. Even if approved by the Committee following the hearing, the Sohn nomination will still need to get the approval of the full Senate before she fills the empty seat on the Commission.
- Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) introduced the “Foreign Adversary Communications Transparency Act” or FACT Act. If enacted, this legislation, in the name of national security, would require the FCC to publish a list of every entity that holds or has an interest in an FCC license (including any equity interest or any other interest identified by a national security agency) and has ties to any authoritarian regime (including with any company organized in, or which is a subsidiary of a company organized in, one of the identified countries). The identified countries are China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea. FCC Commissioner Carr issued a statement in support of this legislation, consistent with his previous support of other national security-related proposals involving the FCC.
- The FCC, via public notice, set the comment and reply comment deadlines for its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in which it proposes to update certain TV technical rules that no longer have any practical effect given, among other things, the transition from analog to digital-only operations and the completion of the post-incentive auction transition to a smaller television band with fewer channels. We noted the initial adoption of this NPRM affecting TV and Class A stations in our Weekly Update when it was adopted at the FCC’s September meeting. Comments are due April 10 and reply comments are due April 25. The NPRM seeks comment on, among other things, whether to eliminate rules that relate to analog operating requirements; and to similarly eliminate language in rules to remove references to digital television or DTV service (as all TV service is now digital); whether to delete outdated rules that are no longer valid given changes in other Commission-adopted policy, such as the elimination of references to the comparative hearing process to award and renew broadcast licenses, a process eliminated by Congressional and FCC action over 25 years ago; and whether to make other mostly editorial updates to the Commission’s rules for TV and Class A stations.
- The FCC’s Media Bureau issued an Order reinstating seventeen channels as vacant FM allotments. The reinstated allotments include three FM channels in each of Arizona, California, and Texas, and one channel in each of eight other states. The listed allotments are now vacant because of the cancellation of a construction permit or license that had been issued for these channels. The vacant allotments will be available for application by interested parties in a future FM auction.
- In another decision involving NCE FM stations and “Raleigh” waivers (we noted other cases involving this policy last week), the FCC’s Media Bureau granted a station’s application to relocate its transmitter to a site that changed the location of existing contour overlap where the station would be predicted to cause interference to a neighboring station. A Raleigh waiver permits an NCE station to increase facilities and receive interference provided that the received interference would be from second- or third- adjacent channel stations and in a small area (an area less than 10% of the proposed service area), and where the benefit of increased NCE service heavily outweighed the predicted interference. In this case, the FCC approved the existing overlap between the applicant and the neighboring station by issuing the neighboring station a Raleigh waiver several years ago, allowing the neighboring station to increase its facilities and receive interference from the station that has now filed to increase its own facilities. Because theneighboring station had received the benefit of this past Raleigh waiver, the current application to change the interference area would be granted because the proposal served the public interest for reasons including the increase in the service that would be provided by the applicant. The Bureau noted that the neighboring station’s Raleigh waiver included a standard condition that, in effect, permitted the current applicant to subsequently modify its facilities in a manner that changed the overlap area, as it did in the current application.