Emergency Communications

Last week, both the FCC and FEMA issued notices to broadcasters, cable and other EAS participants that there was a vulnerability in the EAS technologies that could make those systems subject to hacking, potentially allowing bad actors to send out messages to the public using the alerting system (see FCC notice here and FEMA notice

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.

  • Both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the FCC released public notices, available here and here, alerting broadcasters

The FCC’s Audio Division, in the latter part of the license renewal cycle for radio stations, seems to have adopted a more aggressive position on stations that were silent for extended periods of time during their license term.  In our summary of last week’s events of importance to broadcasters, we noted one case where an Oklahoma AM station was granted a license renewal for a one-year term, instead of the normal eight years, because the station had been silent for 50% of its license term.  Yesterday, another decision was issued granting the license renewals of 7 Texas stations for only one year because these stations had been silent for 25% of their license term (as well as a significant period of time after the license renewal applications were filed).  These and other decisions in recent months show that the FCC is cracking down on stations that are silent for extended periods of time, even if those periods of silence had been authorized by the FCC pursuant to a request for special temporary authority to remain silent.

In each of these decisions, the FCC notes that silent stations cannot be serving the public interest.  When they are silent, they are not providing information to local residents, nor are they relaying EAS alerts.  As the stations are falling short on their obligation to serve the public by extended periods of silence (even if those periods of silence are authorized), the FCC has been issuing these short-term renewals to be able to monitor the performance of these stations to assure that they are continuing to operate during the next year – rather than having to wait until the end of a normal 8-year term to decide if the station has been serving the public.
Continue Reading FCC Cracking Down on Long Periods of Station Silence – Short-Term Renewals for Radio Stations Silent More than 25% of License Term

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

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? 

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.

  • FEMA officials announced at the NAB Show that there will be no national EAS test in 2022. FEMA is planning

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.

  • Broadcast operations that use uninterruptable power supply (UPS) devices as either a primary or backup power source should be alert

March is one of those months where no regularly scheduled FCC deadlines fall.  But there are still plenty of other deadlines and dates of importance to broadcasters that fall during this month, from comment dates in rulemaking proceedings, to the start of an auction for new TV stations and the completion of the reimbursement cycle for certain stations involved in the TV repack, to deadlines for radio stations to sign up for the GMR license agreement, and even, with daylight savings time upon us, the time for certain AM stations to adjust their operating parameters.

Let’s start with the rulemaking proceedings.  On March 11, comments are due on an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks to enhance visual EAS messages to assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Reply comments on the NPRM are due by March 28.  The same Federal Register notice that set these comment dates also references an associated Notice of Inquiry that asks for suggestions on how to improve the current EAS daisy chain architecture to better deliver alerts.  Comments and reply comments on the NOI are due by April 11 and May 10, respectively.

Interested parties that want to reply to comments submitted on the FCC’s Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the ATSC 3.0 (Next Gen TV) proceeding must have those reply comments in by March 14.  In that proceeding, the FCC proposes to allow Next Gen TV stations to include within their license certain of their multicast streams that are aired on “host” stations during a transitional period.  Under the FCC’s proposals that are designed to clear up which entity is responsible for legal and regulatory compliance, such multicast streams will be part of the originating station’s license, not that of the “host” station.  See the Federal Register notice, here, and read the comments submitted to the docket, here.
Continue Reading March Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: EAS and Next Gen TV Rulemaking Comments, Incentive Auction Reimbursements, TV Auction, GMR Licensing Deadline, and More

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.

  • Global Music Rights (GMR) and the Radio Music Licensing Committee (RMLC) announced that enough broadcasters had agreed to GMR licensing

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 urging all communications companies to take steps to ensure the security of their facilities