Where do all the Washington DC legal issues facing TV broadcasters stand? While we try on this Blog to write about many of those issues, we can’t always address everything that is happening. Every few months, my partner David O’Connor and I update a list of the legal and regulatory issues facing TV broadcasters.
Here are some of the regulatory and legal developments of the last week of significance to broadcasters – and a look ahead to the FCC’s consideration of two media modernization items in the coming week. Links are also provided for you to find more information on how these actions may affect your operations.
- This week,
While we are approaching the end of summer in this most unusual year, the regulatory dates keep coming, though perhaps a bit slower than at other times of the year. One of the big dates that broadcasters should be looking for is the announcement of the Annual Regulatory Fees that will likely be paid sometime in September. This year, there has been much controversy over those fees, with the FCC proposing that broadcasters’ fees should go up even though the FCC’s budget is flat, while the NAB has argued that they should remain flat or decrease. And many broadcast groups have argued for liberal waivers of the fee requirement in this year of the pandemic when so many stations were hit so hard by the economic downturn. Watch for this decision – likely toward the end of the month.
The license renewal cycle continues in August for both radio and TV. Full-power TV, Class A TV, TV translator and LPTV stations in North Carolina and South Carolina and full-power AM, FM, FM translator, and LPFM radio stations in Illinois and Wisconsin should be putting the finishing touches on their license renewal applications—due to be filed on or before August 3 (the deadline being the 3rd as the 1st of the month is a Saturday). While stations are no longer required to air pre-filing announcements, the requirement to air post-filing announcements remains. Those announcements must begin airing on August 1 and continue through October. See our article about how to prepare for license renewal here.…
Continue Reading August 2020 Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: TV and Radio License Renewals, EEO Reporting, FCC Open Meeting, Broadcast Internet Comments and More
Here are some of the FCC regulatory and legal actions of the last week—and congressional action in the coming 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.
- The Media Bureau reminded broadcasters that July 13, 2021—the hard deadline
Tuesday marked the end of the TV repacking following the TV incentive auction – shrinking the TV band by moving all TV stations to channels below what used to be Channel 37 (with a few exceptions for stations given a couple of extra months due to last minute COVID-19 delays, as discussed in the FCC decision here). The FCC announced the end of the transition in a Press Release, and Chairman Pai delivered remarks on an American Consumer Institute webcast, thanking his staff for making the transition happen. Remarkably, in the 15-year life of this blog, this is the second time that we have written about the shrinking of the TV band – the first following the transition of television from analog to digital over a decade ago (see, for instance the articles here and here from the 2009 digital transition).
That transition to digital is not complete, as we were reminded by another Public Notice released by the FCC on Monday. This Public Notice emphasized to LPTV and TV translator operators, some of whom still have not transitioned to digital operations, that they have one more year to do so. By the end of the day on July 13, 2021, all LPTV and TV translator stations need to be operating in digital or they need to cease operations. The Public Notice reminds these operators who have construction permits for new digital facilities to extend those permits if they expire without construction completion before next year’s transition deadline – and alerts these operators to file by May 1, 2021 any last-minute modifications of the technical facilities specified in construction permits authorizing their digital transition. Filing by May 1 gives the FCC sufficient time to process these applications so that any changes can be implemented by the July 13 deadline.…
Continue Reading The Evolution of TV – The End of the Repack, a One-Year Reminder to the End of Analog LPTV, and the Start of the ATSC 3.0 Roll-Out
July is usually a month of family vacations and patriotic celebrations. While the pandemic has seen to it that those activities, if they happen at all, will look different than they have in years past, there are plenty of regulatory obligations to fill a broadcaster’s long, summer days. Here are a few of the dates and deadlines to watch for in July, and a quick reminder of some of the significant filings due right at the beginning of August.
On or before July 10, all TV and radio stations must upload to their public file their Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists for the 2nd quarter (April, May and June). Stations that took advantage of the FCC’s extension of time to file their 1st quarter (January, February and March) list must also by July 10 upload that list to their public file. As a reminder, the Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists are a station’s evidence of how it operated in the public interest, demonstrating its treatment of its community’s most significant issues. The FCC has shown (see here and here) that it takes this requirement seriously and will fine stations, hold up license renewals, or both if it finds problems with a station’s compliance. For a short video on complying with the Quarterly Issues/Programs List requirement, see here.…
Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: End of the TV Repacking, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, Children’s Television Reporting, EEO, Carriage Election Public File Information Deadline, LPTV Settlement Window, Rulemaking Comments and More
Here are some of the regulatory actions of 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:
- FEMA announced that it has canceled the 2020 test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), which is
Here are some of the FCC regulatory and legal actions of the last week of significance to broadcasters — with a quick look at the week ahead— with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- As protests and civil unrest over George Floyd’s killing roiled cities across the country, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai commended local broadcasters for their coverage of the events and their willingness to put themselves at personal risk to share these stories with America (News Release). Commissioner Starks called for more diversity in media ownership (News Release). We explained the minority tax certificate on our blog here. The tax certificate has historically been one of the most effective means of promoting diversity in broadcast ownership.
- The FCC issued a Public Notice setting out proposed lump sum payments for reimbursement of the costs for the relocation of authorized C-Band satellite earth stations following the repurposing of some of that band for 5-G wireless uses. The notice is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, setting a June 15 comment deadline on the proposed payments.
- The Media Bureau reminded LPTV and TV translator stations operating on channels 38, 44, 45 and 46 that they must cease operations no later than 11:59 pm local time on July 13, 2020. The July 13, 2020 date for cessation of operations is a hard deadline, tied to the end of the post-Incentive Auction transition period. (Public Notice)
- The Media Bureau opened a settlement window running through July 31 for applicants for new or modified LPTV stations or TV translators, originally filed in 2009, that had filed for new channels or new technical facilities because use of their old channels was preempted by the incentive auction repack. Where more than one applicant applied for the same new channel in the same area, those applicants can file to make engineering changes to their applications (including, if no other solutions are possible, changing channels yet again) or to reach other settlements (including channel sharing) to resolve their conflicts by the July 31 deadline. (Public Notice)(see our summary of both LPTV items on the Broadcast Law Blog).
- The FCC released a list of 515 open proceedings from across its bureaus that it plans to close due to dormancy. A proceeding makes the proposed closure list when it requires no more action, no more action is planned, or no filings in the docket have been made for several years. Interested parties can review the list and submit comments urging the Commission to either keep open or close permanently items that appear on the list. (Public Notice)
- The Media Bureau issued a decision reviewing Section 312(g) of the Communications Act which automatically cancels a station’s license if it has been silent for 12 months, absent special circumstances. The decision is particularly useful in explaining the special circumstances that can justify the preservation of a license, and the way that the FCC assesses the period that a station was silent. (Letter)
- Two Notices of Apparent Liability that came out of the Commission this week serve as good reminders during this license renewal cycle that you do, in fact, have to file an application to renew your license.
- In one case, a Virginia AM station was hit with a $7,000 fine for failing to file for license renewal and then operating the station after its FCC authorization had expired. In the end, the Commission levied the fine, but also found that the station’s license should be renewed for a “short-term” two-year license term instead of the typical eight-year term. (Notice of Apparent Liability)
- In a second case, a Florida low power FM failed file an application for license renewal on January 27, 2020 that was due on or before October 1, 2019, without providing an explanation for the late filing. The Commission levied a $1,500 fine against the station and will consider the license renewal application at a later time. (Notice of Apparently Liability)
LPTV and TV translator licensees and applicants saw two notices from the FCC yesterday dealing with fall-out from the FCC’s incentive auction and the subsequent repacking of TV stations into a smaller part of the broadcast spectrum. The first notice announced a settlement window that runs through July 31 for applicants for new or modified LPTV stations or translators that had filed for new channels or new technical facilities because use of their old channels were preempted by the repacking – either because those channels were no longer part of the TV band or because the channels were to be used by some full-power station that was itself repacked. These applications have been pending since an LPTV/TV translator filing window in 2009, and were allowed to amend their applications to address issues caused by the repacking earlier this year. As, in some cases, more than one applicant applied for the same new channel in the same area, those applicants whose displacement applications ended up being mutually exclusive can file to make engineering changes to their applications (including, if no other solutions are possible, changing channels yet again) or to reach other settlements (including channel sharing) to resolve their conflicts. So if your displacement application was on the list of mutually exclusive applications, look to see if you can resolve your issues and file for the necessary FCC approvals by the July 31 deadline.
In addition, LPTV stations and TV translators using channels 38, 44, 45 and 46 were reminded by the FCC in another Public Notice that they need to vacate these channels by July 13. The FCC notes that this is a hard deadline that cannot be waived – so stations operating on these channels must either move to a new channel (getting FCC approval for such a move if they have not already received such approval) or cease operations (and ask for authority to remain silent until they have been able to move to another channel) by the July 31 deadline so that the spectrum is freed up as part of its being repurposed for wireless uses. …
Continue Reading LPTV and TV Translators – Settlement Window for Mutually Exclusive Applications and Reminder on Deadline for Vacating Certain Channels
Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions of the last week—and some obligations for the week ahead—of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- The comment cycle was set in the FCC’s annual regulatory fee proceeding. On or before June 12, the Commission wants to hear from interested parties about the fees that it proposes to impose on the companies that it regulates – including broadcasters. The FCC proposes to complete the implementation of its change to computing fees for television stations based on population served rather than on the market in which they operate, a move it began last year (see our Broadcast Law Blog article here on the FCC decision last year to initiate the change in the way TV fees are allocated). The FCC also asks for ideas about how the Commission can extend fee relief to stations suffering COVID-19-related financial hardship. Reply comments are due on or before June 29. (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)
- FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Chris Krebs, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, wrote to the nation’s governors asking them to, among other things, declare radio and TV broadcasters as essential to COVID-19 response efforts and to afford broadcasters all appropriate resources and access. (News Release)
- In a good reminder to broadcasters that transactions involving the sale or transfer of control of a broadcast station must be authorized in advance by the FCC, the Media Bureau entered into a consent decree with two companies that sold an FM station and FM translator without getting approval from the Commission. The parties mistakenly believed filing license renewal applications that reflected the assignment was sufficient approval. The consent decree includes an $8,000 penalty. (Consent Decree). See this article on past cases where the FCC has warned that even transactions among related companies that change the legal form of ownership of a broadcast station without changing the ultimate control need prior FCC approval.
- The Commission granted approval to Cumulus Media, Inc. to exceed the Commission’s twenty-five percent foreign ownership threshold. The Commission will allow Cumulus to have up to 100 percent aggregate foreign investment in the company, although additional approvals will be needed if any previously unnamed foreign entity acquires 5% or more of the company or if any foreign entity desires to acquire control. (Declaratory Ruling). This decision shows the process that the FCC must go through to approve foreign ownership above the 25% threshold and the analysis needed to issue such approvals. See our articles here and here about the evolving FCC policy in this area.
- Anyone looking to hand deliver documents to the FCC needs to learn a new address, and it is not, as you might expect, the address of the FCC’s future headquarters. Deliveries by hand must now be brought to 9050 Junction Drive, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701. The address change is to enhance security screening and is part of winding down operations at the current 12th Street headquarters. (Order)