April brings to an end the four-year license renewal cycle that began in 2019 with the filing of renewals by radio stations in the Washington DC area. Our monthly updates, like this one, will thus not be highlighting license renewal dates again until mid-2027. But there are always other regulatory dates which broadcasters need to note. There are EEO Public File reports due in April for certain states (as they are every other month), the requirement for all full-power broadcast stations to upload to their public file their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, and there are a number of rulemaking comment deadlines of interest to broadcasters. So, let’s look at some of the important regulatory dates for broadcasters in April.
As April 1 is a Saturday, April 3 is the deadline by which television stations, LPTV stations, TV translators and Class A stations in Delaware and Pennsylvania must file their license renewal applications, bringing to a close the current TV license renewal cycle. Renewal applications must be accompanied by FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 Broadcast EEO Program Report (except for LPFMs and TV translators). Stations filing for renewal of their license should make sure that all documents required to be uploaded to the station’s online public file are complete and were uploaded on time. Be sure to read the instructions for the license renewal application and consult with your advisors if you have questions, especially if you have noticed any discrepancies in your online public file or political file. Issues with the public file have repeatedly led to fines imposed on broadcasters during renewal cycles.
April 3 is also the deadline by which radio and television stations licensed to communities in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas with employment units of five or more full-time employees must upload Annual EEO Public File Reports to station online public inspection files. This annual report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for the prior year. A link to the uploaded report must also be included on the home page of a station’s website, if it has a website.
April 10 is the deadline by which all full-power television, full-power radio and Class A television stations must upload to their online public inspection files their Quarterly Issues Program lists for the first quarter of 2023. The lists should identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station aired in January, February and March that addressed those issues. As you finalize your lists, do so carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community. See our article here for more on the importance of the Quarterly Issues Programs list obligation.
April 10 is also the deadline by which noncommercial educational stations must upload to their public inspection files documentation of their on-air fundraising benefitting third parties from January 1 through March 31. More specifically, this obligation applies to noncommercial educational stations not affiliated with NPR or PBS that conducted third-party on-air fundraising that interrupted their normal programming. For more information about this item, see our article here. And, again by April 10, Class A television stations must upload documentation of their eligibility for Class A status from January 1 through March 31.
April also includes a number of deadlines for comments in rulemaking proceedings. April 10 is the date for comments on an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) adopted back in September proposing to update the FCC’s technical rules for full power TV and Class A TV stations. The FCC determined that a review and update of these rules is necessary due to the digital transition, the incentive auction repack, current technology, and changes in Commission practices. 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 which was eliminated by Congressional and FCC action over 25 years ago; and whether to make other updates to the Commission’s rules. Reply comments are due April 25.
April 19 is the deadline for comments on the FTC’s proposal to ban non-compete agreements. The proposal is a broad one, as it would prohibit 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 rule would apply not just to employees of a company, but also to independent contractors, interns, and others performing work for a company.
Comments are due April 28 (with Reply Comments due May 15) on a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (the full text of which is available here) adopted by the FCC on March 16 seeking comment on whether to apply its audio description requirements to the TV markets where those requirements do not already apply (i.e., DMAs 101 through 210). Audio description inserts narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements during natural pauses in the program’s dialogue, for the benefit of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The FCC proposes that, if it determines that the costs are reasonable, the phase-in of the requirements will begin with DMAs 101 through 110 on January 1, 2025, and extend to an additional 10 DMAs per year, concluding with DMAs 201 through 210 on January 1, 2035.
Finally, April 20 is the next FCC open meeting, and it is tentatively scheduled to include consideration of an Order to clean up Part 74 of the FCC’s rules for low power TV and TV translators, by eliminating rules for analog TV operations that are no longer relevant in a digital world.
As always, this list of dates is not exhaustive, deadlines can change, and new deadlines can be added. Review these dates with your legal and technical advisors, and note other dates not listed here that may be relevant to your operations. And we hope to see many of you at the NAB Show in Las Vegas in April!