Noncommercial Broadcasting

Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions and developments 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.

  • The FCC released its Report and Order on annual regulatory fees for fiscal year 2020 and,

The FCC yesterday dismissed a Petition for Reconsideration of its reexamination of the criteria that it uses for determining which application is granted when there are conflicting applications filed in any window for the filing of new noncommercial FM stations.  We wrote about the reexamination of the noncommercial selection criteria in our article here.  We did not mention the specific issue that was raised in the request for reconsideration, which is explained in more detail below.  The decision resolving this Petition may also be the last step before the FCC opens a window for applications for new stations in the FM reserved band (below 92 FM), something that has not happened in a decade.

In the reconsideration petition, one party asked the FCC to change the position that it has long taken – that if the FCC has to use its points system (the system that awards points for certain favored criteria – criteria including favoring local applicants who are well-established in a community and don’t already have another media outlet and those owned by statewide organizations) to decide between mutually exclusive applications – it will select only one winner even if, by selecting that one winner, other applications may have no technical conflict with the winning application.  The petitioner asked that, in this situation, the FCC grant additional applications once it has decided on the preliminary winner.  Let’s look at how this situation can arise.
Continue Reading FCC Dismisses Petition for Reconsideration of Reexamination of Noncommercial Licensing Policy – Next Step, Window for New Applications?

Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions and developments 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.

It’s a school year like no other – and broadcast stations that are licensed to colleges and other schools are likely as disrupted by the pandemic as is anyone else.  As we wrote here, the FCC in March allowed noncommercial radio stations licensed to educational institutions to consider period when schools were closed for in-person instruction as school breaks or “recess” periods when the minimum operating schedule for these stations did not apply.  Now that we are beginning a new school year, how is the FCC treating these stations?

From informal conversations that I have had with the FCC, the guidance delivered above is still in place – so if your school is still virtual, your radio station need not meet the minimum operating schedule required of noncommercial stations.  You can continue to treat the period when students are generally not on campus as a recess when the station does not need to meet these minimum operating requirements.
Continue Reading Noncommercial Stations Licensed to Educational Institutions and the FCC’s Required Minimum Operating Schedule in a Pandemic Disrupted School Year

A window for the filing of applications for new noncommercial FM stations in the reserved FM band (below 92.1 FM) appears to be on its way – either later this year or early next.  As we reported in our summary of last week’s broadcast legal actions, Chairman Pai last week responded to a Congressional

Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions and developments 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.

  • The FCC acted this week on two media modernization items that had been teed up for

When do noncommercial stations stray from permissible acknowledgment of those local businesses that provide funding for its operations to impermissible commercials?  That question was addressed in a Notice of Apparent Liability issued by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau on Thursday, proposing a $15,000 fine for a low power FM station whose underwriting announcements were deemed too commercial.  The decision, which includes examples of the announcements deemed problematic, is must-reading for all noncommercial licensees who want to avoid fines from the FCC in connection with their underwriting acknowledgements for commercial entities.

The decision breaks down into four categories the reasons for finding the announcements in this case to be too promotional.  The first category is one that often arises in connection with these announcements – the underwriting announcement uses terms that make qualitative claims about the sponsor.  You can’t talk about a commercial sponsor being voted the “best” or being the “most experienced.”  Talking about mechanics who are “experts” in working on certain cars, or decorators who have “an exceptional eye for the perfect arrangement” are all examples of announcements that cross the line.  In this case, some of the examples of impermissible qualitative claims include a car repair shop with “certified master technicians” who use “state of the art equipment.”  Another was for a new real estate company that was characterized as being “one of the fastest growing real estate companies in the country” having “23 agents and a combined experience of over 300 years” and being a “national company with a local flair” having “recruited some of the most well-known agents.”  Another for a computer repair company was perhaps closer to the line but still was deemed too promotional, saying “don’t waste your time when you have a professional nerd to help make your life run easier” and “we’re not your average nerds.”  In some cases, like the last one, had it been the only identified issue, the FCC may have just determined that it was an exercise of licensee judgement about what was too promotional and let it go.  But in a case like this one, with so many other issues, it was identified as being a problem.
Continue Reading $15,000 FCC Fine Proposed for Underwriting Announcements that Were Too Commercial

Here are some of the FCC 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.

  • The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau entered into negotiated settlements with two Boston-area pirate radio operators who admitted to illegal operations and

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