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 FCC’s Media Bureau announced the opening of two filing windows for Class A TV, LPTV, and TV translator stations:
    • The Bureau released a Public Notice announcing that, beginning August 20, Class A TV, LPTV, and TV translator stations may file applications to change their existing channels.  No other “major modification” applications (such as transmitter site location changes of more than 30 miles) and no applications for new stations will be accepted.  Channel change applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, with any applications filed on the same day being deemed “mutual exclusive” if they cannot all granted consistent with the FCC’s interference rules.  Mutually exclusive applicants will have a later opportunity to settle or file a technical amendment to their applications to resolve their conflicts.  More information on the filing and processing of these applications is in the Public Notice.
    • The Bureau also released a Public Notice announcing that eligible LPTV stations may file to convert to Class A status now through May 30, 2025.  In December 2023, following the passage by Congress of the Low Power Protection Act, the FCC released a Report and Order that gave LPTV stations located in small television markets – DMAs ranked 178 (Elmira-Corning, NY) through 210 (Glendive, MT) – a limited opportunity to apply for Class A status.  Class A status protects these stations from interference by new or improved full-power stations, and from changes to the television band (such as those that occurred from the TV incentive auction when parts of the allotted television spectrum was reclaimed by the FCC to be auctioned to wireless operators).  To be eligible for Class A status, LPTV stations must have, between October 7, 2022 and January 5, 2023, been on the air at least 18 hours per day, broadcast an average of at least 3 hours of local programming per week, and otherwise complied with the FCC’s LPTV rules. Additional information about the filing requirements and procedures is in the Public Notice
  • The FCC’s weekly list of the items on circulation (those orders or rulemaking proposals that have been drafted and are currently circulating among the Commissioners for review and a vote) removed an order resolving a pending proceeding that would require that broadcasters receive enhanced certifications from all buyers of programming time on their stations demonstrating that the programmers are not representatives of foreign governments.  The removal of the draft order from the list likely means that it has been voted on by the Commissioners and will be released soon – possibly in the next few days.  For more information about the possible new obligations that would be imposed on broadcasters, see this article on our Broadcast Law Blog.
    • The list also noted the addition of a Report and Order for consideration by the Commissioners to adopt the FCC’s regulatory fees for FY2024.  Orders like this are normally adopted by August so that regulatory fees can be paid before the October 1 start of the federal government’s next fiscal year.  That item also appears to include a Report and Order acting upon the FCC’s March Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which proposed changes to how the FCC calculates its annual regulatory fees for earth stations.
  • The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau announced that it will conduct a voluntary Disaster Information Reporting System exercise from June 10 to 12 for communications providers and broadcasters.  The Bureau’s Public Notice contains information on how to register and participate in the DIRS exercise.  As we discussed in our weekly updates here and here, the FCC proposed in a January Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to require TV and radio stations to report their operating status during disasters in the FCC’s DIRS database.  The exercise will provide broadcasters the opportunity to practice the use of the DIRS database should the FCC adopt the proposed mandatory reporting requirement. 
  • The FCC made two announcements concerning its TVStudy software, which is used by broadcasters to conduct TV station coverage and interference analysis for allotment petitions and modification applications.  The Media Bureau announced that the 2020 U.S. Census Data must be used in applications filed on or after August 1, 2024.  The Office of Engineering and Technology also announced the release of an updated version of the TVStudy software.  A full list of the changes can be found here.
  • The Media Bureau affirmed its grant of a new Iowa noncommercial FM station construction permit, rejecting an objection arguing that the applicant’s antenna location was not available as it was in use by a station owned by the company that filed the objection. The Bureau found that, because the applicant relied in good faith on a statement by the tower owner’s representative that the applicant could install its antenna at the originally proposed height, it had reasonable assurance of site availability when it filed its application, and determined that the applicant would be allowed it to amend its application to specify an antenna height at an available lower location on the tower. 

On our Broadcast Law Blog, we highlighted upcoming regulatory deadlines for broadcasters for June and early July.  We also reminded broadcasters of actions that they should take when they get an objection to the content of a political attack ad to avoid potential liability – a reminder we thought appropriate as we anticipate that, particularly given this past week’s verdict in the Trump trial, we may well see some nasty political ads this election season.