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, Science, and Technology Committee this week scheduled an executive session for July 12 to consider the nomination of Anna Gomez to fill the current vacancy on the FCC. The Committee will at the same time consider the renominations of current Commissioners Starks and Carr. If approved by the Committee, the nominations will move forward for consideration by the full Senate, though when any final Senate approval will occur is unclear at this time. We wrote on our Broadcast Law Blog about some of the issues that the Commission might consider if it has a full five members for the first time during the Biden Administration.
- One of the issues that will likely be considered by a full Commission is the 2018 Quadrennial Review of the broadcast ownership rules. Among other issues, the 2018 Review is to review the current local radio ownership restrictions. As we explained in December, the 2018 Review was to have been resolved by the end of 2022 but, instead, the FCC started the 2022 Review without having resolved the prior one. In April, as we noted here, the NAB filed a Petition for Mandamus, asking the US Court of Appeals to order the FCC to resolve the 2018 proceeding. On Friday, the Court ordered the FCC to respond to the NAB Petition, giving the FCC 30 days to respond.
- The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau entered into a Consent Decree with the operator of a Low Power FM station in Arizona, resolving issues about this noncommercial station running commercials for its sponsors. LPFM stations, like other noncommercial stations, are limited to “underwriting announcements” for those who donate to the station – announcements that simply identify the sponsor and its business without any “calls to action,” qualitative claims, price information, or similar statements that would promote the sponsor or its business. For more information on the FCC’s underwriting rules, see our article here. The Consent Decree required a $20,000 payment to the government, and imposed requirements that the licensee adopt a compliance plan to avoid future issues, report on any future violations of the rules, and file with the FCC yearly reports on its underwriting for the next three years. If the licensee violates the underwriting rules in that period, it will owe an additional “suspended penalty” of $41,500, suggesting that the fine would have been significantly higher had the Consent Decree not been negotiated.
- The FCC’s Media Bureau proposed the allocation of new FM channels at three Hawaii communities: Koloa, Puhi, and Lihue. Comments on these proposals are due August 20, 2023, with reply comments due September 12. If allocated, these channels will be available for application in a future FM filing window.
- The Media Bureau also approved the change in channels of TV stations in Coos Bay, Oregon and Kalispell, Montana, changing the authorizations of existing stations from VHF channels to ones in the UHF band, channels that are preferred for digital broadcasting.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for July 12, 2023 to consider copyright issues posed by the use of Artificial Intelligence. We wrote about some of those issues in articles on our blog, here and here.