Noncommercial Broadcasting

November is one of those few months with no routine FCC filing obligations (no renewals, reports, fees or other regularly scheduled deadlines.  While that might seem to suggest that you can take time that you normally devote to regulatory actions to begin your holiday preparations even in this most unusual year, there are still many issues to consider, and you can also use this month to plan for complying with deadlines that fall in December.

While there are no significant comment dates on broadcast matters yet set in November, look for dates to be set in the FCC’s proceeding to determine whether there should be a limit on the number of applications that one party can file in the upcoming window for the filing of applications for new noncommercial, reserved band FM stations.  See our article here on the FCC’s request for comments in this proceeding.
Continue Reading November Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Rulemaking Comments, Hearings on Diversity and a New Commissioner, an FCC Open Meeting and More

Here are some of the regulatory 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’s International Bureau released a Public Notice on its review of the requests for “lump sum reimbursement requests” for

The FCC yesterday issued a Public Notice announcing that it will in fact be opening a window for the filing of applications for new reserved-band noncommercial FM stations (those stations operating in the portion of the FM band below 92.1 FM, which is reserved for noncommercial educational broadcasters).  We anticipated that this window was coming

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 the agenda and items to be considered at its October 27 Open Meeting.

What are a noncommercial broadcaster’s obligations with respect to the political file and the rest of the FCC’s political broadcasting rules?  That is a question that I have heard asked several times in the last few weeks as we approach this most important, and contentious, election.  In short, I think that the answer to this question is that, in most cases, a noncommercial broadcaster will have few if any political file obligations.  Why?

Broadcast stations that are licensed as noncommercial do not have any reasonable access requirements.  What that means is that noncommercial stations do not have any obligation to sell time to political candidates or to make any free time available to the candidates for their messages.  Years ago, reasonable access did apply to noncommercial stations, but when a DC-area congressional candidate used the statutory reasonable access requirements to force a local NPR affiliate (to which many on Capitol Hill listened) to air political commercials, Congress acted to abolish the reasonable access requirement as it applied to noncommercial stations.  So, as noncommercial stations do not need to sell political time to candidates, they are not faced with the political file obligations which have triggered scrutiny from the FCC in recent months.  But that is not to say that there could never be a political file obligation for a noncommercial station.
Continue Reading Noncommercial Broadcasters and the Political File

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