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.

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.

  • Congress passed, and the President signed, a continuing resolution to extend funding for the Federal government, including the FCC, averting

While there are a number of regulatory deadlines scheduled for broadcasters in the month of March, there is also the potential for some of those to shift if we have a federal government shutdown.  As of the date of the publication of this article, we do not know if a federal government shutdown will occur this month, with the FCC and FTC currently being funded only through March 8.  As we recently discussed here, the FCC and other government agencies may have to cease all but critical functions if they do not have any residual funds to continue operations during a shutdown.  Therefore, if Congress fails to extend funding of the FCC and other government agencies past March 8, many of the regulatory deadlines discussed below will likely be postponed. If there is a shutdown, and any of the deadlines below apply to you, be sure to research how the shutdown affects your operations.

There are certain technical deadlines likely not affected by any shutdown.  Those include the requirement that, by March 11, broadcasters using Sage EAS equipment implement the requirement that, when a station receives an over-the-air EAS alert, it must wait at least 10 seconds to determine if a CAP alert has been sent through the IPAWS system and, if it has, the station should rebroadcast that internet-delivered CAP alert rather than the one received over the air.  We wrote more about that requirement on our Broadcast Law Blog, here. For stations using other EAS equipment, the deadline was December 12, 2023 to implement this requirement but as Sage was delayed in pushing out its equipment update, users of that equipment were given until March 11 to comply with this requirement. Continue Reading March Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Sage EAS Compliance Deadline, Effective Dates of New FCC Rules, Comment Deadlines, Daylight Savings Time, Political Windows, and More

When you have been representing broadcasters in Washington for as long as I have, you see cycles in regulation of the industry.  I was reminded of how long the FCC has been on a deregulatory cycle in reading today’s Washington Post obituary of former Democratic FCC Chair Charlie Ferris, who headed the FCC many decades ago when I interned there and when I later started to work in private practice representing broadcasters.  One line in the Post article in particular stood out – where Ferris was said to have “argued that unless regulations were ‘improving the market,’ they ‘were nothing but a nuisance.’”  Since the administration of Chairman Ferris, the FCC has generally moved forward to implement that philosophy of eliminating unnecessary regulation, with only occasional consideration given to the reinstatement of certain regulations (efforts that were often unsuccessful).  With the spate of recent rulings from the FCC, one questions whether the direction that Chairman Ferris pointed the FCC is now being slowed or reversed at a time when the market may well be crying out for an increase in the speed of that deregulation.

The obituary itself quoted one media observer as suggesting that the deregulatory direction in which Ferris took the FCC might not have been entirely successful, based on a persistent lack of minority ownership of broadcast properties, and “’a shortage of local, professional, accountable reporting’ in many communities.”  But are those failings ones that are attributable to the deregulatory trends of the FCC, or greater marketplace forces that have strained not just broadcasting but all traditional media?  In reading the media headlines in the last few weeks, one can’t help but conclude that the latter is more likely the cause, and that another quote from Chairman Ferris cited in the article has never been more appropriate, as he warned broadcasters: “If you cannot compete with new technologies, you will be overcome by them.”  As we’ve argued in this blog before (see for instance our article here reflecting on the warnings of another former Chairman, Ajit Pai), given the slew of new technologies available to consumers, imposing new rules on a broadcast industry flooded with new competition for audience and revenues simply does not make sense.Continue Reading Just Because the FCC Can Regulate Broadcasting, Should It? 

On February 22, the FCC released an Order reinstating the requirement for radio and television broadcasters, commercial and noncommercial, to annually file an FCC Form 395-B.  All station employment groups with 5 or more full-time employees would need to classify all station employees, both full-time and part-time, by race or ethnicity and gender, as well as by the type of job they perform at the station (see the most current version of the form here).  The form, which will be amended to allow employees to be classified as “non-binary” as well as male and female, will likely need approval of the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act before broadcasters will be required to comply.  The Form would be filed by September 30 of each year after the effective date, reporting on the employment profile of the station in a pay period in July, August, or September (the same pay period to be used each year).

The Form is not new, though its use has been on hold for over 20 years.  A version of this form had been used by the FCC in the 1980s and 1990s, but its use was put on hold in 1998 as the result of court decisions finding unconstitutional the FCC’s use of this information to impose additional regulatory burdens on broadcasters whose employment profile did not reflect the demographics of its service area.  The court’s concern was that these additional regulatory actions forced broadcasters to make hiring decisions based on race or gender, a form of prohibited discrimination. Continue Reading Reinstating FCC Form 395-B Reporting on the Race and Gender of Broadcast Employees – What the Action Means for Broadcasters

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

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 announced the circulation for Commissioner review and approval of two decisions of interest to broadcasters, signifying that we

We often write about issues concerning the royalties paid by radio stations for their various uses of music.  It is not just paying the royalties that are important, but stations must also observe all of all the other obligations under each of their license agreements.  The Radio Music License Committee asked us to remind commercial

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).Continue Reading February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Annual EEO Public File Reports, C-Band Transition Reimbursement, Political Windows, and More

The FCC last week issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed to give incentives to broadcasters to air more local journalism and local programming by prioritizing the processing of certain applications by stations that feature local programming.  That decision drew dissents from both of the FCC’s Republican Commissioners, not because of the proposal for the preference, but because they were concerned about language in the Notice asking for comment on whether the FCC was correct in its 2017 decision that abolished the main studio rule and the policy requiring broadcasters to have the capability of originating programming from a physical location in their service areas.  

The proposal to prioritize the processing of applications by stations with local programming is a narrow one.  The priority would only apply to renewal applications, and applications for sales of full-power stations (assignments of licenses and transfers of control).  The FCC’s proposal would not apply this preference to routine applications that are processed in the normal course (with renewals usually being granted within a month after the three-month comment period following the renewal filing deadline, and assignment and transfer applications similarly being routinely granted within a few weeks of the end of the 30 day public comment period following the public notice of the filing of an application for FCC approval of the sale).  Instead, the majority decision proposes to apply the priority only to applications that are non-routine, giving faster processing to applications that have petitions filed against them, or where the FCC has other concerns with a routine grant of the application (seemingly, in the renewal context, that would apply to cases where there are certifications in the application that cannot be made by an applicant, e.g., where it cannot certify that it had properly maintained its public inspection file during the license term, or that the applicant had not violated FCC rules or had not been silent for an extended period during the license term).Continue Reading FCC Proposes to Prioritize Processing of Applications by Stations with Local Programming – And Asks Many Questions About Whether the FCC Should Have Abolished the Main Studio Rule