Political Broadcasting

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from this past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from this past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing extensive revisions to its Class A TV, LPTV, and TV translator

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 announced the opening of two filing windows for Class A TV, LPTV, and TV translator stations:

With the verdict in the first criminal case against former President (and now candidate) Trump having been released, we can envision a whole raft of attack ads likely to be airing before the November elections.  The verdict is likely to also increase political divisions within the country, and potentially fuel many other nasty attack ads to be aired in political races from the top of the ballot to the local races that appear toward its end.  The use of artificial intelligence in such ads raises the prospect of even nastier attack ads, and its use raises a whole host of legal issues beyond defamation worries, though it raises those too (see our article here on defamation concerns about AI generated content, and our recent articles here and here about other potential FCC and state law liability arising from such ads).  Given the potential for a nasty election season getting even nastier, we thought that we would revisit our warning about broadcasters needing to assess the content of attack ads – particularly those from non-candidate groups. 

As we have written before, broadcasters (and local cable companies) are forbidden from editing the message of a candidate or rejecting that ad based on what is says except in extreme circumstances where the ad itself would violate a federal criminal law and possibly if it contains a false EAS alert (see, for instance, our articles herehere and here).  Section 315 of the Communications Act forbids a broadcaster or a local cable operator from censoring a candidate ad.  Because broadcasters cannot censor candidate ads, the Supreme Court has ruled that broadcasters are immune from any liability for the content of those ads.  (Note that this protection applies only to over-the-air broadcasters and local cable companies – the no censorship rule does not apply to cable networks or online distribution – see our articles here and here)  Other protections, such as Section 230, may apply to candidate ads placed on online platforms, but the circumstances in which the ad became part of the program offering need to be considered. Continue Reading Trump Verdict Raises Concerns About A Nasty Election Campaign Getting Nastier – Looking at a Broadcaster’s Potential Liability for Attack Ads

Though school is out for many, the FCC does not take a summer recess.  Instead, regulation continues.  In addition to the regular EEO Annual Public Inspection File Report deadline for broadcasters in a number of states, there are several comment deadlines in June on issues that directly impact broadcasters – as well as the FCC’s regular monthly Open Meeting when it will consider a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that, if adopted, would make significant revisions to its rules for Class A, LPTV, and TV translator stations.  And, as this is an election year, there are several political deadlines this June that broadcasters must be aware of. 

June 3 (as the 1st is on a weekend) is the deadline for radio and television station employment units in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming with five or more full-time employees to upload their Annual EEO Public File Report to their stations’ online public inspection files (OPIFs).  A station employment unit is a station or cluster of commonly controlled stations serving the same general geographic area having at least one common employee.  For employment units with five or more full-time employees, the annual report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for the prior year.  A link to the uploaded report must also be included on the home page of each station’s website, if the station has a website.  Be timely getting these reports into your public file, as even a single late report can lead to FCC fines (see our article here about a recent $26,000 fine for a single late EEO report).

The filing of the Annual EEO Public File Reports for radio and television station employment units with eleven or more full-time employees triggers a Mid-Term EEO Review that analyzes the last two Annual Reports for compliance with FCC requirements.  June 1 is the beginning of the Mid-Term EEO Review for radio station employment units in Michigan and Ohio andfor television station employment units in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Additionally, radio stations located in those states that are part of station employment units with five or more full-time employees must indicate in their OPIFs, when they post their Annual Report, whether their employment unit has eleven or more full-time employees, using a checkbox now included in the OPIF’s EEO folder.  This allows the FCC to determine which station groups need a Mid-Term Review.  See our articles here and here on Mid-Term EEO Review reporting requirements for radio stations.Continue Reading June Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Public File Reports, Rulemaking Comments, Political Deadlines, and More

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from this past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel announced that she had circulated among the Commissioners for their review and approval a draft Notice of

We’ve written several times (see for instance our articles here, here, and here) about all of the action in state legislatures to regulate the use of artificial intelligence in political advertising – with approximately 17 states now having adopted laws or rules, most requiring the labeling of “deep fakes” in such ads, and a few banning deep fakes entirely.  Action on the federal level seems to be picking up, with two significant actions in the last week.  This week, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued a Press Release announcing that the FCC would be considering the adoption of rules requiring broadcasters and other media to include disclaimers when AI is used in political advertising. Last week, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration considered three bills addressing similar issues.  These actions, along with a long-pending Federal Election Commission proceeding to consider labeling obligations on federal election ads (see our article here), are the federal government’s attempts to address this issue – though, with the time left before the election, none  of these proposals appear likely to have a significant effect during the current election cycle.

At the FCC, according to the Chairwoman’s Press Release, a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is circulating among the Commissioners for their review.  The proposal is to require broadcasters, local cable companies, and other regulated entities with political broadcasting obligations under FCC rules, to include mandatory disclosures on political ads when AI is used.  The disclosures would be required on the air and in writing in a station’s FCC-hosted online public inspection file.  While the text of the NPRM is not yet public, the Press Release did provide some specifics as to the questions that would be asked in this proceeding.Continue Reading The FCC and Congress Advance Proposals to Regulate Artificial Intelligence in Political Advertising

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.

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 FTC announced that it will hold a 45-minute webinar on May 14 at 11:00 a.m. ET to provide an

While May is one of those months that does not have any routine, scheduled FCC filing deadlines, there are still a number of regulatory dates and deadlines for broadcasters that are worthy of note.  As detailed below, this includes comment deadlines in several FCC rulemaking proceedings, a response deadline for broadcasters caught in the first random EEO audit of 2024, and the effective date of the FCC’s order allowing FM boosters to originate limited amounts of programming (when interested parties can file for experimental authority to begin such programming).  As always, remember to keep in touch with your legal and regulatory advisors to make sure that you don’t overlook any other regulatory deadlines we may have missed here or ones that are specific to your station.

May 6 is the deadline for radio and television stations listed in the EEO audit notice released by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau last month to upload their audit responses to their online public inspection files.  The FCC randomly audits approximately 5% of all broadcast stations each year regarding their EEO compliance.  Audited stations and their station employment units – which are commonly owned stations serving the same area – must provide to the FCC their last two years of EEO Annual Public File Reports and documentation demonstrating that the stations did everything that is required under the FCC’s EEO rules.  See our article here for more detail on EEO audits and how seriously the FCC takes broadcasters’ EEO obligations.Continue Reading May Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Audit Responses, Comment Deadlines on Emergency Broadcasting Matters, Effective Date for Zonecasting with FM Boosters, LUC Windows, and More