Low Power Television/Class A TV

Last week, the FCC entered into a consent decree with the operator of a low power TV station, where the broadcaster admitted to violating FCC rules by selling advertising packages that included guaranteed appearances of the advertiser on a local news and information program, without any notice to viewers that the programming was sponsored.  The decree imposed a 5-year compliance plan on the licensee, requiring the training of employees on sponsorship identification requirements of the FCC rules, the adoption of plans to ensure that the issue does not arise again, and the reporting to the FCC of any similar issues that arise in the future.  In addition, the licensee had to pay a $60,000 penalty – and the language of the decree suggests that this fine would have been significantly larger had the licensee been able to pay more (as it was, the licensee is allowed to pay off the penalty in $1000 per month increments). This penalty should not be a surprise, as the conduct raises significant sponsorship identification issues, as well as a host of issues under the FCC’s political broadcasting rules.

Having paid appearances in local programming without a sponsorship identification has in the past been a source of FCC concern – and has resulted in big penalties where a sponsor is not disclosed to the public.  For instance, we wrote here about a fine of more than $13 million imposed on Sinclair Broadcasting for running feature stories about a local cancer institute that had been promised to the institute as part of a paid advertising package, without disclosing the payment on-air.  Any time a broadcaster receives anything of value in exchange for saying something on the air, the broadcaster needs to disclose that consideration and who provided it.  Even program suppliers need to disclose that they have been paid when they have been paid to say something on the air.  For more information, see, for example our article here where a TV political commentator was required to disclose that he was being paid to support certain political positions, and our article here on requiring program syndicators to make clear when programming they provide has been sponsored.  The FCC’s recent rules about the disclosure of foreign government-sponsored programming (see our articles here and here) also require that broadcasters assure that any buyer of program time on the station has not itself been paid by a foreign government or their agent to say something in their programming.
Continue Reading $60,000 Fine on LPTV Station For Political Broadcasting and Sponsorship Identification Issues with Ad Packages Containing News Program Appearances

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’s Media Bureau released a consent decree, including the payment of a $60,000 penalty, with an LPTV station

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

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.

  • A bill was introduced in the US Senate proposing to prohibit any FCC or criminal action against a broadcaster who

With the end of summer upon us, we begin to look forward to the regulatory issues that will face broadcasters as we barrel toward the end of the year.  One date on many broadcaster’s minds is the date by which the annual regulatory fees will be due to be paid.  While the payment date is almost certainly going to be sometime in September, look for an FCC decision on the amount of those fees at some point in late August.  As we wrote in last week’s summary of regulatory actions (and in many before), the amount that broadcasters will pay remains a matter of dispute, so watch for the resolution of that dispute by September, as fees must be paid before the October 1 start of the FCC’s next fiscal year.

But many other dates of importance to broadcasters will occur well before the resolution of the regulatory fee issue.  August 1 is the deadline for full power television, Class A television, LPTV, and TV translator license renewal applications for stations in California.  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 August Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters:  Regulatory Fees, EEO Reports, Many Rulemaking Comment Dates, 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.

  • The US Court of Appeals this week determined that the FCC’s requirement that broadcasters confirm by searching DOJ and FCC

The FCC in recent years has been upgrading their technical systems (even though, as many broadcasters and their attorneys know, the upgrades are often not without their own problems).  The old CDBS database, in which broadcasters for years filed their applications, is shut down for all new filings as almost all broadcast applications have migrated to the new Licensing and Management System (“LMS”) database system.  Another transition date is almost upon broadcasters as the FCC announced months ago that it will be decommissioning its legacy Commission Registration System (“CORES”) at 6 pm EST on July 15.  We’ve written about that deadline in several weekly updates and in our post looking ahead at July regulatory dates for broadcasters.  But with the date almost upon us, it is important to remind broadcasters to register in the new system by the July 15 deadline. By that deadline, each person associated with your licensee’s FCC Registration Number (“FRN”), including those who prepare or submit your FCC filings or submit your annual FCC regulatory fees, should register in its new CORES2 database by setting up an account and then associating their account with the relevant FRN.  Once legacy CORES is retired, you will only be able to access FCC filing and payment systems using a CORES2 user account. See the FCC webpage with information about the transition here.

The new CORES2 system contains the same FRN information as the legacy system (found here ). The change to CORES2 will impact how individuals, licensees and other entities doing business before the FCC obtain and manage their FRNs, and will also affect access to various FCC databases, including the LMS used for preparing and filing routine FCC applications and reports.   To maintain access to the information in CORES, all licensees need to register in the new system.  Tutorial videos on navigating CORES2 can found here.
Continue Reading FCC Database Transitions – Are You Ready for the New CORES on July 15? Did You Know Call Sign Reservation Has Moved?

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.

The lazy days of summer continue to provide little respite from the regulatory actions of importance to broadcasters.  The good news is that there are no license renewal or EEO  deadlines during the month of July.  Nonetheless, there will be a number of July deadlines that require attention.

On July 1, comments are due on the FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics annual call for comments on the State of Competition in the Communications Marketplace (see the Public Notice calling for these comments). The comments are used to prepare a report to Congress on communications competition issues and are sometimes referenced by the FCC itself in proceedings dealing with competition issues.  The FCC seeks comments on a list of questions about competition in both the Video and Audio marketplaces, including the impact of digital competitors on traditional providers and the role that regulation plays in the competitive landscape.  Reply comments are due August 1.

July 5 and July 18 are the comment and reply comment deadlines, respectively, for the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the FCC’s proposed regulatory fees for fiscal year 2022.  The fees that the FCC is proposing for television (full power and otherwise) and radio stations are set forth in Appendix C and Appendix G of the document.  The FCC is proposing an increase of approximately 13% for radio broadcasters.  Among other things, the FCC proposes to continue to assess fees for full-power broadcast television stations based on the population covered by a full-service broadcast television station’s contour, and it seeks comment on its mechanism for calculating the regulatory fee based on the this population-based methodology.  These fees will be set by the end of August or very early September, to be paid before the October 1 start of the government’s new fiscal year.
Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters:  Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists and Other Public File Obligations, Lowest Unit Charge Periods, License Renewal, Copyright Filings 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.