Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • In the last two weeks, many stations have discovered that links to their FCC-hosted online public inspection file no longer

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last 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 this week that it will hold a hearing to consider FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for

With the Administration’s decision to renominate Jessica Rosenworcel for another term on the FCC and to select her as the permanent chair of the Commission, and the nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the vacant seat on the FCC, and assuming both are confirmed by the Senate (though the Wall Street Journal noted that there

On December 1 of this year, Biennial Ownership Reports are due to be filed at the FCC by all full-power radio and TV stations, commercial and noncommercial, as well as from Class A TV and LPTV operators.  These reports are due every two years.  While the last two biennial reports that had been due in December 2019 and in December 2017 had their deadlines extended to early the next year because of issues with the FCC forms that were at that point still being refined, no such issues are expected this year. In fact, a month ago when the window opened for filing these reports, the FCC released a Public Notice reminding broadcasters of the filing deadline, emphasizing its importance, and issuing this warning that there may well be fines or other penalties for stations that do not timely file this required report:

Consistent with the importance of this information, Commission staff intends to pursue enforcement actions against licensees that fail to file their biennial ownership reports in a timely or complete manner. 

Why does the Commission collect this information?  Biennial ownership information not only keeps track for the public of who owns broadcast properties, but it also allows the Commission to track broadcast ownership.  In recent years, the reports ask for the gender and race/ethnicity of owners of stations (and control parties of noncommercial stations), and the Commission plans to use this information to track industry ownership trends.  This was an issue in the most recent change in the broadcast ownership rules, where the Third Circuit, before being overturned by the Supreme Court, had wanted the FCC to determine the impact of past changes in its ownership rules on minority and female ownership – and the FCC fought back, claiming that it did not have that information (see our article here).  These reports are one way in which such information is supposed to be provided by the FCC.
Continue Reading Less than a Month to Go – Reminder to Broadcasters to File Biennial Ownership Reports by December 1 or Potentially Face Penalties

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC issued a Public Notice to remind potential applicants of the upcoming filing window for applications for construction permits

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • ViacomCBS and its subsidiary Pluto TV agreed to pay $3.5 million and enter into a consent decree with the FCC

As we enter the last quarter of the year, the broadcasters’ October calendar is full of important regulatory dates and deadlines.  We share some of those dates below and urge you to stay in close touch with your lawyers, engineers, and consultants for the dates and deadlines applicable to your station’s operations.

On or before October 1, radio stations in Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Marianas Islands, Oregon, and Washington and TV stations in Iowa and Missouri must submit their license renewal applications.  Pay close attention to the contents of your online public file and be sure that all required documents are complete and were uploaded on time.  Stations filing their renewals (other than LPFMs) are also required to file a Broadcast EEO Program Report (FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396), submitting two years of EEO Public File reports for FCC review unless your employment unit employs fewer than 5 full-time employees.  As you are putting the final touches on your applications, be sure to read the instructions for the license renewal application (radio, TV) and consult with counsel if you have questions.
Continue Reading October Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: License Renewals, Broadcast Ownership Filings, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, Rulemaking Comment Dates and More

Here are some of the regulatory developments from the last week of significance to broadcasters , with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • At the last minute, the deadline for broadcasters to pay their annual regulatory fees was extended to Monday, September

Comments are due on September 30 on the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking to bring back some form of the old FCC Form 395B, the Annual Employment Report.  That form required broadcasters to report on the racial and gender make-up of their workforce in various employment categories.  The use of the form has been on hold for almost two decades after two rulings from the US Court of Appeals that found it was unconstitutional for the FCC to use the information collected from the Form 395B to determine if a broadcaster’s license renewal application deserved extra scrutiny.  In effect, the court found using the reports in this way compelled broadcasters to make hiring decisions based on the race and gender of employment candidates, which was discriminatory and thus could not be compelled by the FCC.

This created a tension between a law requiring that the FCC gather information on the racial and gender make-up of the broadcast workforce to determine if affirmative action efforts should be made on an industry-wide basis, versus  the prohibition on gathering this information on a station-specific basis where the temptation would always be to look at a specific station’s data and make assumptions about whether it had been  in making employment decisions in color blind manner.  While the FCC has over the last two decades repeatedly considered bringing back the form to collect information on an industry-wide basis, questions have always arisen as to how the accuracy and completeness of that information could be assured if the information gathered did not identify the station providing it.  And, once that information was in hand, would it be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) obligations that could force its disclosure which could lead to it potentially being used in an enforcement context?
Continue Reading The Return of FCC Form 395B?  – The FCC Looks at Reviving Reports on the Race and Gender of Broadcast Employees

With a week to go before the deadline for submission of annual regulatory fees, we urge broadcasters to get into the FCC’s fee filing system now and pay their fees.  We have been told that there are sometimes glitches in the electronic payment system that can take time to resolve.  With a 25% penalty on payments received after the September 24 deadline, broadcasters should not wait until the last minute to submit these fees and risk having to pay the steep penalty for a late payment should a glitch arise.

The FCC has issued numerous public notices about the payment of these annual regulatory fees that anyone paying fees should review to make sure that they know all that they need to know to make a complete and timely payment.  The FCC initially issued a Public Notice announcing that the payment window is open and will be open for timely payments through 11:59 pm Eastern Daylight Time on September 24, 2021. The Media Bureau subsequently released a Media Bureau Fee Filing Guide setting out payment specifics for computing the fees due from broadcast stations.  The Bureau’s online fee lookup portal for the fees that the FCC believes are due from any specific station was activated early this week (see the FCC Public Notice here).  Remember, fees are based on a station’s status as of October 1, 2020, so stations that have since changed facilities pay on the facilities as they were last year – and that is what should be reflected in the FCC’s database.  This week, the FCC also issued a Fact Sheet explaining who does not owe fees – including noncommercial stations and companies whose total obligations are $1000 or less.
Continue Reading 2021 Regulatory Fee Deadline of September 24 – Don’t Delay!