Children's Programming and Advertising

The FCC yesterday issued a Public Notice, extending the deadlines for all filings that were due to be made next week in the FCC’s LMS or online public file systems.  The new deadline is February 28, 2023.  While we don’t usually post articles on this blog on Saturday, given that there may be broadcasters around the country hunched over their computers trying to make FCC filings due next week, we thought that we would make an exception today and send this alert.

This extension gives more time to broadcasters to upload many applications and reports that are due to be filed next week.  This includes license renewals that were due to be filed by February 1 by television stations, LPTV stations, TV translators, and Class A stations in New York and New Jersey.  For all commercial TV stations in the country, the Annual Children’s Programming Reports which were due January 30 are now due by February 28.  Quarterly Issues Programs lists for all broadcast stations, which originally were due to be uploaded to station public files by January 10 and then by January 31 per a prior FCC extension, must now be uploaded by February 28.  EEO Public File Reports for broadcast employment units with 5 or more full-time employees in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma were due to be uploaded to the online public file by February 1 – and that deadline too will be extended to February 28.  The Public Notice is broad, saying any public file document due to be upload or any FCC application to be filed through LMS are extended until February 28.  If you have any FCC deadline coming up, check with your attorney to see if it is covered by this extension.  Remember that this applies only to applications and reports to be filed through the FCC’s LMS and online public file systems. 

Continue Reading FCC Extends End of January Deadlines for LMS and Online Public File Documents Due to Filing System Technical Issues 

2023 has begun – and everyone is speculating as to what the New Year will bring.  Last week, we published an article looking at some of the regulatory issues that the FCC will potentially deal with this year.  But some regulatory dates are already on the calendar, and broadcasters need to be aware of the obligations that they impose.  So, each year, at about this time, we put together a look at the regulatory dates ahead for broadcasters.  This year is no different – and we offer for your review our Broadcasters’ Regulatory Calendar for 2023.  While this calendar should not be viewed as an exhaustive list of every regulatory date that your station will face, it highlights many of the most important dates for broadcasters in the coming year – including dates for EEO Public Inspection File ReportsQuarterly Issues Programs listschildren’s television obligations, annual fee obligations, retransmission consent/must-carry elections, the Biennial Ownership Report due later this year, and much more.

There seem to be fewer dates highlighted than on last year’s calendar.  That’s because there are two sets of deadlines that are not as significant this year.  With the license renewal cycle almost at its end, the calendar just contains information about license renewals for the 4 states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) whose television stations have license renewal applications due in the last two renewal cycles (February 1 deadlines for New York and New Jersey TV stations, and April 1 for stations in the other two states). 

Continue Reading Broadcasters’ Calendar – A Look Ahead to the Regulatory Dates for 2023

The new year brings a series of regulatory deadlines in January and a February 1 license renewal deadline that broadcasters should take note of.  As in 2022, the FCC will remain vigilant in making sure that its deadlines are met, so the following items should not be overlooked or left until the last minute.

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November lacks the usual set of deadlines for routine FCC filings, but there are nevertheless a number of regulatory dates that warrant attention.  And come the first of December, those regular filing deadlines return to the calendar.

November brings comment deadlines in at least two FCC proceedings relevant to broadcasters.  On November 7, reply comments are due with respect to the FCC’s Order and Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (on which we previously reported) to delete or revise analog rules for Low Power TV and TV translator stations that the FCC believes no longer have any practical effect or that are otherwise obsolete or irrelevant after the transition of these stations to digital operation.  November 25 is the deadline for reply comments in the FCC’s request for comment on the methodology that it uses to allocate its employees to determine annual regulatory fees (see article here).  Broadcasters have felt that their fees have increased more than their fair share – but other regulated services likely complain about their share of the fees as well.  Because the FCC allocates the fee obligation based on the number of its employees who spend time on regulatory duties regarding a particular regulated industry, this proceeding looking to allocate how employees are allotted is very important.

Another rulemaking proceeding will likely be concluded in November.  The FCC last week announced that the agenda for its November 17 regular monthly open meeting will include consideration of a Report and Order (a draft of which was released last week) that would update the FCC’s rules to identify a new publication for determining a television station’s designated market area (“DMA”) for satellite and cable carriage purposes.  Current FCC rules direct commercial TV stations to use Nielsen’s Annual Station Index and Household Estimates to determine their DMA, and stations rely on these determinations when they seek carriage on cable and satellite systems.  Nielsen, however, has replaced the Annual Station Index and Household Estimates with a monthly Local TV Station Information Report (“Local TV Report”).  The Order, if adopted as drafted, would (i) revise the FCC’s rules to eliminate references to the Annual Station Index and Household Estimates and instead direct broadcasters to the Local TV Report – specifically, the October Local TV Report published two years prior to each triennial carriage election; and (ii) conclude that the Local TV Report should be used to define “local market” in other statutory provisions and rules relating to carriage (e.g., retransmission consent, distant signals, significantly viewed, and field strength contour).  For further background regarding this proceeding, see our article here.
Continue Reading November Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Rulemaking Comments, Political Obligations, Daylight Savings Time and More

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.

With regulatory fees due today, September 30, 2022 (extended from September 28 because of the effects of Hurricane Ian and some other technical issues with fee payment by this FCC Public Notice, with the date for waiver requests similarly extended by this Public Notice), it is time to look ahead to October and some of the regulatory dates and deadlines that broadcasters have coming in the month ahead.

October starts with the TV license renewal deadlines for Television, Class A, LPTV, and TV Translator Stations in Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, N. Marianas Islands, Oregon and Washington State.  The deadline for filing is October 3 as the 1st of the month falls on a Saturday, thus extending the deadline to the next business day.  As we have previously advised,  renewal applications must be accompanied by FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 Broadcast EEO Program Report (except for LPFMs and TV translators).  Stations filing for renewal of their license should make sure that all documents required to be uploaded to the station’s online public file are complete and were uploaded on time.  Note that your Broadcast EEO Program Report must include two years of Annual EEO Public File Reports for FCC review, unless your employment unit employs fewer than five full-time employees.  Be sure to read the instructions for the license renewal application and consult with your advisors if you have questions, especially if you have noticed any discrepancies in your online public file or political file.  Issues with the public file have already led to fines imposed on TV broadcasters during this renewal cycle.
Continue Reading October Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Renewals and EEO Obligations, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Rulemaking Comments and More

We kicked off our summary of last week’s regulatory actions for broadcasters with the news of several millions of dollars in fines imposed on over 100 television stations for apparent “program-length commercials” in children’s programming.  Last week’s Notice of Apparent Liability, a unanimous decision by all four FCC Commissioners, stemmed from a Hot Wheels Super Ultimate Garage ad that was aired a total of 11 times during a Team Hot Wheels TV program which ran 8 times during November and December of 2018.  The same programming was provided by Sinclair Broadcast Group to both commonly owned stations and stations owned by other companies.  Two years ago, the same program was the subject of a $20,000 fine on a station in Baltimore, apparently when the issue was first discovered and reported to the FCC (see our article about that fine here).  Given the number of stations on which the proposed fines were imposed last week, and the number of issues discussed in the Notice, we thought that we should give the Notice a more extensive look.

First, it is worth discussing the FCC’s concerns with what they term “program-length commercials.”  The Commission has, for almost 30 years, had a policy against “program-length commercials” – programs that feature characters who are also featured in a commercial that runs during the program.  The FCC has been concerned that children may not perceive the difference between a program and a commercial that runs in that program if both feature the same characters.  The entire program can be perceived as a commercial for the product.  If the whole program is perceived as promoting the product, then the program would exceed the commercial limits in children’s programming as set by Congress and incorporated in Section 73.670 of the rules – 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.
Continue Reading A Closer Look at Multi-Million Dollar Proposed Fines for Program-Length Commercials in Children’s Television

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.

  • Revisions to the pending Journalism Competition and Preservation Act were released to the public this week (revised draft bill

In our summary of last week’s regulatory actions, I was struck by a common thread in comments made by several FCC Commissioners in different contexts – the thread being the FCC’s role in regulating Internet content companies.  As we noted in our summary, both Republican commissioners issued statements last week in response to a request by a public interest group that the FCC block Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.  The Commissioners stated that the FCC had no role to play in reviewing that acquisition.  Twitter does not appear to own regulated communications assets and thus the FCC would not be called upon to review any application for the acquisition of that company.  The Commissioners also noted concerns with the First Amendment implications of trying to block the acquisition because of Musk’s hands-off position on the regulation of content on the platform, but the Commissioners’ principal concern was with FCC jurisdiction (Carr StatementSimington Comments).  In the same week, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in remarks to a disability rights organization, talked about plans for more FCC forums on the accessibility of Internet content to follow up on the sessions that we wrote about here.

The ability of the FCC to regulate internet content and platforms depends on statutory authority.  In holding the forums on captioning of online video content, the FCC could look to the language of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which included language that asked the FCC to look at the accessibility of video content used on internet platforms.  In other areas, the FCC’s jurisdiction is not as clear, but calls arise regularly for the FCC to act to regulate content that, as we have written in other contexts, looks more and more like broadcast content and competes directly with that content.
Continue Reading Does the FCC Regulate Internet Content and Companies?