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.

As we wrote in several of our recent weekly summaries of regulatory issues for broadcasters, the FCC released a Public Notice the week before last announcing that regulatory fees must be submitted by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on September 28. This public notice set the deadline for the payment of fees established in the FCC’s Report and Order released just before Labor Day, which resolved objections to the higher fees that had been proposed for broadcasters by reducing those proposed fees somewhat (while still raising broadcaster’s fees on average about 8% over fees paid in prior years).  Since the Public Notice setting the fee payment deadline, the FCC has been busy issuing numerous notices, providing guides, and launching web pages with information about the fees and the procedures for paying those fees.

A notice that should be reviewed by all broadcasters owing fees is one issued on Friday when the FCC released another Public Notice setting the specifics for payment of the fees.  This notice details the payment process and requires that all payments be made through the FCC’s CORES database.  The notice also states that payments can only be made by credit cards, VISA or Mastercard debit cards, ACH transfers or wire transfers.  No cash or checks will be accepted.
Continue Reading More on FCC Regulatory Fees Due on September 28 – Public Notices on Payment Procedures, Deadlines, Amounts, and Waivers

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 released additional public notices in connection with the upcoming September 28 deadline for submission of annual regulatory fees.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has introduced a bill to repeal all broadcast ownership limitations including the radio and television local ownership rules (see the draft bill, the Local News and Broadcast Media Preservation Act, here, and the Senator’s press release, here).  As we have noted before (see, for instance, our article here), the FCC is currently considering changes to the radio ownership rules but the proposals, first advanced in late 2018, remain stalled in the current FCC seemingly because of its current political deadlock with two Republicans and two Democrats.  The current pending proposal at the FCC (see our summary here) is also considering allowing combinations of two of the top 4 TV stations in a market based on certain defined parameters (such combinations being allowed now only when justified based on an ill-defined case by case public interest analysis).  The Paul legislation would essentially pre-empt this review by abolishing the FCC’s ownership rules.  Of course, being introduced so late in the Congressional session with no other declared political support, the bill has little chance of becoming law in this session of Congress.

The Paul legislation is designed to allow broadcasters to compete with big tech companies that have seriously eroded the advertising and audience shares of broadcast stations over the last decade (see our article here).  According to Paul’s press release, his bill “would give local broadcasters and newspapers much-needed relief from outdated government restrictions that are currently threatening their ability to succeed in an evolving media environment.”  As the broadcast media is the only media subject to such ownership restrictions, many have argued that, for a truly level playing field in today’s media landscape, a significant relaxation of the rules is warranted.
Continue Reading Senator Rand Paul Introduces Bill to Repeal Broadcast Ownership Limits and Allow Joint Negotiations with Big Tech Companies

With so much focus on the upcoming regulatory fee deadline, broadcasters may well overlook another more imminent deadline – Thursday, September 15 is the deadline for broadcasters to have assured themselves that no buyer of program time on their stations is a foreign government or an agent of a foreign government.  As we wrote here, the NAB successfully obtained a court decision eliminating the obligation for broadcasters to verify that no buyer of program time is listed in the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act database or on the FCC’s database of foreign government video programmers.  However, the underlying obligation of licensees to obtain certifications from buyers of program time on their stations confirming that they are not a foreign government, or an agent of a foreign government, remains in place.

New agreements for the sale of program time should have, since March 15, contained representations from the program buyer that they are not a foreign government or a representative of a foreign government, and that no foreign government has paid the programmer to produce the programs or to place it on broadcast stations.  Programming provided to the station for free with the expectation that it will be broadcast should also be confirmed as not coming from a foreign government or an agent of a foreign government.  By this Thursday (September 15), stations need to verify that the providers of programming under agreements that were in existence before March 15 are not foreign governments or their agents.
Continue Reading Don’t Forget September 15 Deadline For Broadcasters to Assure That Buyers of Program Time Are Not Foreign Governments or Their Agents

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 that regulatory fees must be submitted by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on September 28. In addition, the

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.

  • On September 2, the FCC released a Report and Order (“R&O”) and Notice of Inquiry adopting the regulatory fee schedule

As summer begins to wind down, just like the rest of the world, the FCC and other government agencies seem to pick up speed on long delayed actions.  Broadcasters can anticipate increased regulatory activity in the coming months.  For September, there are a few dates to which all broadcasters should pay attention, and a few that will be of relevance to a more limited group.  As always, pay attention to these dates, and be prepared to address any other important deadlines that we may have overlooked, or which are unique to your station.

All commercial broadcasters will need to pay attention to actions which will likely come in rapid fire in the next two weeks, setting the deadlines for payment of the Annual Regulatory Fees that must be paid before the October 1 start of the next fiscal year for the FCC.  Look for an Order very soon deciding on the final amounts for those fees.  That Order will be quickly followed by a Public Notice setting the payment dates and procedures.  Then watch for fact sheets from each of the Bureaus at the FCC.  The Media Bureau fact sheet will cover the fees to be paid by broadcasters.  Be ready to pay those fees by the announced September deadline, as the failure to pay on time brings steep penalties.
Continue Reading September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters:  Reg Fees, Foreign Government Program Certifications, Final Chance to Claim Reimbursement for Repacking Expenses, Comments on ATSC 3.0 and FTC Advertising Inquiry, 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.

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

We have been receiving numerous calls from broadcasters about “franking” ads from Congressional representatives running for reelection.  Congress each year allows its members to spend certain amounts of money to communicate with their constituents.  This was traditionally done through mailings, which Congressional representatives could send through the US mail without any postage charges (hence the name “franking” deriving from a French word for “free”).  This privilege was later extended to allow the representatives to use broadcast media, but stations are paid for such spots.  These franking messages cannot be used for political messages, and the messages cannot be run during the 60 days before any election.  They tend to talk about how Congressional staff can help constituents with problems accessing government benefits or about how government programs can help residents in their districts.  But just because the messages are not in and of themselves political does not mean that the messages do not have implications under the FCC’s political broadcasting rules.

These franking ads are almost always voiced by the representative (for radio) or have a visual appearance of the representative (for TV).  If the representative is running for reelection, and has qualified for a place on the ballot (for a primary or general election) or will run as a bona fide write-in candidate (see our post here about write-in candidates), then the ads can have FCC political broadcasting implications.  As with any other appearance of a legally qualified candidate on the air outside an exempt program (exempt programs being news or news interview programs or documentaries not about the candidate – see our article here), the recognizable voice or image of a candidate is a “use” by that candidate that triggers equal opportunities for opposing candidates. As we wrote here about advertisers who appear in their company’s commercials and then decide to run for political office, those uses need to be noted in a station’s political file (providing all the information about the sponsor, schedule and price of the ad, as you would for any pure political buy). The use would also trigger equal opportunities, meaning that any opposing candidate can request an equivalent amount of airtime.  But that does not necessarily mean that a station needs to reject these franking ads.
Continue Reading Watch for Congressional “Franking” Ads in the Last Weeks Before the Pre-Election Period – The FCC Political Broadcasting Implications