President Biden’s signing of the Continuing Resolution last week (see our discussion here) has kept the federal government open, with the FCC and FTC having money to stay open through March 8.  So the FCC will be open and thus there are February regulatory dates to which broadcasters should be paying attention. 

February 1 is the deadline for radio and television station employment units in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma with five or more full-time employees to upload their Annual EEO Public File Report to their stations’ online public inspection files (OPIFs).  A station employment unit is a station or cluster of commonly controlled stations serving the same general geographic area having at least one common employee.  For employment units with five or more full-time employees, the 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 each station’s website, if the station has a website.  Be timely getting these reports into your public file, as even a single late report can lead to FCC fines (see our article here about a recent $26,000 fine for a single late EEO report).

The filing of the Annual EEO Public File Reports for radio station employment units in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi with eleven or more full-time employees triggers a Mid-Term EEO Review, that analyzes the last two Annual Reports for compliance with FCC requirements.  Radio stations located in those states with five or more full-time employees that are required to file an annual EEO Public File Report must also indicate in their OPIFs whether their employment unit has eleven or more full-time employees, using a checkbox now included in the OPIF’s EEO folder. This allows the FCC to determine which station groups need a Mid-Term Review. See our articles here and here on Mid-Term EEO Review reporting requirements for radio stations.

February 5 is the deadline for earth station operators affected by the C-band transition to submit reimbursement requests for all cost incurred and paid as of December 31, 2023.  Even licensees who sought lump sum reimbursement and who have not filed all their paperwork with the reimbursement administrator need to do so by this deadline. See the FCC Public Notice for more information on the upcoming C-Band reimbursement deadlines.

February 5 is also the deadline for comments in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), in which the FCC proposes to eliminate video service “junk fee” practices by cable and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service providers.  As we discussed here and here, the NPRM proposes, among other things, customer service protections that prohibit cable operators and DBS service providers from imposing a fee for the early termination of a cable or DBS video service contract.  Reply comments will be due March 5. 

Comments in another proceeding involving multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) are due later in the month.  February 26 is the deadline for filing comments in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to require MVPDs to report lapses in their carriage of TV stations when retransmission consent negotiations fail, i.e., “blackouts.” 

The FCC is proposing  in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to require broadcasters to report on their operational status during emergencies in the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), the use of which is now optional for broadcasters.  On February 6 through February 8, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will be conducting a voluntary exercise regarding the use of DIRS so that broadcasters and other communications entities can learn how to use the database. More information regarding the voluntary DIRS exercise can be found here.

At other agencies, February 5 is the deadline to file Petitions to Participate in the Copyright Royalty Board’s (CRB) proceeding to set royalty rates for 2026 through 2030 to be paid by webcasters (including broadcasters who simulcast their programming through internet-delivered channels) for the public performance of sound recordings.  These royalties are paid to SoundExchange, and are reviewed by the CRB every five years (with the current rates expiring at the end of 2025).  The Petitions to Participate must describe the party’s interest in the proceeding and be accompanied by a filing fee of $150.  The Federal Register notice provides other procedural details for filing these Petitions. See our article here for more on this proceeding.

On February 13, the FTC will hold an informal hearing on its proposed rule banning fake reviews and testimonials in advertisements and marketing materials enabled by the emergence of generative artificial intelligence.  We wrote more about that proposed rule here.  The hearing is scheduled to occur at 10 a.m. ET on February 13.  See the FTC website here for more information about the hearing.

The political season continues in February, and broadcasters serving Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming should be aware of the opening of the following political windows for primaries, caucuses, and elections scheduled to occur in March and April – meaning that Lowest Unit Rates apply to sales to candidates and their authorized committees (see our article here on the basics of computing LUR): 

LUR DateElection DateState/TerritoryElection Type
February 1, 2024April 1, 2024DelawareMunicipal Elections (Blades, Newport, and Odessa)
February 2, 2024April 2, 2024DelawareMunicipal Election (Delaware City)
FloridaMunicipal Elections (Cities or Towns of Cedar Key, Chiefland, Inglis, Otter Creek, Williston, Yankeetown; Cedar Key Water & Sewer District)
MissouriMunicipal Elections
OklahomaBoard of Education Election
February 3, 2024March 19, 2024ArizonaPresidential Primary
FloridaPresidential Primary
IllinoisPresidential, Federal (House), State, Judicial, and Municipal Primary
KansasPresidential Primary
OhioPresidential, Federal (House/ Senate), and State Primary
February 7, 2024March 23, 2024LouisianaPresidential, Federal (House), State, and Municipal Primary
MissouriPresidential Primary (D)
February 9, 2024April 9, 2024FloridaMunicipal Elections (Cities or Towns of Keystone Heights, Orange Park, Dade City, New Port Richey, Port Richey, San Antonio, St. Leo, Zephyrhills)
February 13, 2024April 13, 2024DelawareMunicipal Election (Ocean View)
February 17, 2024April 2, 2024ConnecticutPresidential Primary
DelawarePresidential Primary
New YorkPresidential Primary
Rhode IslandPresidential Primary
WisconsinPresidential Primary
February 20, 2024April 20, 2024DelawareMunicipal Election (Seaford)
February 21, 2024April 6, 2024AlaskaPresidential Primary (D)
HawaiiPresidential Primary (D)
North DakotaPresidential Primary (D)
February 27, 2024April 27, 2024DelawareMunicipal Elections (Milford and Hartly)
LouisianaMunicipal Elections
February 28, 2024April 13, 2024WyomingPresidential Primary (D)

As a refresher, in the 45 days before a primary election, and 60 days before a general or special election, broadcasters must extend to legally qualified candidates their lowest unit rate and continue to follow all other applicable political broadcasting rules.  So, the lowest unit rate period will be in effect at some point next month for stations serving states that have primaries, caucuses, or elections in March and April.  For a deeper dive on how to prepare for the 2024 elections, see our post, here, which also includes a link to our comprehensive Political Broadcasting Guide.  Also take a look at our 2024 Broadcasters’ Calendar to see if your state has an upcoming primary, general, or special election (though confirm these dates locally as some dates have changed since the calendar was prepared). 

Looking ahead to March, Daylight Savings Time begins on March 10, and thus AM daytime-only radio stations and stations operating with pre-sunrise and/or post-sunset authority should review their sign-on and sign-off times on their current FCC authorizations.  Also, beginning March 11,all broadcasters using Sage-manufactured Emergency Alert Service (EAS) equipment must commence compliance with the FCC’s new EAS rules requiring the new CAP prioritization requirement.  For more details on these new EAS rules, see our article, here

As always, check with your attorneys and advisors to see if there are other dates not mentioned here that are of importance to your station.  Always stay on top of all regulatory requirements.