Programming Regulations

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.

  • The FCC rejected a request that it reconsider its December 2020 decision to end a proceeding to set aside one

In our summary of last week’s regulatory actions, I was struck by a common thread in comments made by several FCC Commissioners in different contexts – the thread being the FCC’s role in regulating Internet content companies.  As we noted in our summary, both Republican commissioners issued statements last week in response to a request by a public interest group that the FCC block Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.  The Commissioners stated that the FCC had no role to play in reviewing that acquisition.  Twitter does not appear to own regulated communications assets and thus the FCC would not be called upon to review any application for the acquisition of that company.  The Commissioners also noted concerns with the First Amendment implications of trying to block the acquisition because of Musk’s hands-off position on the regulation of content on the platform, but the Commissioners’ principal concern was with FCC jurisdiction (Carr StatementSimington Comments).  In the same week, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in remarks to a disability rights organization, talked about plans for more FCC forums on the accessibility of Internet content to follow up on the sessions that we wrote about here.

The ability of the FCC to regulate internet content and platforms depends on statutory authority.  In holding the forums on captioning of online video content, the FCC could look to the language of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which included language that asked the FCC to look at the accessibility of video content used on internet platforms.  In other areas, the FCC’s jurisdiction is not as clear, but calls arise regularly for the FCC to act to regulate content that, as we have written in other contexts, looks more and more like broadcast content and competes directly with that content.
Continue Reading Does the FCC Regulate Internet Content and Companies? 

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.

  • Follow field testing by GeoBroadcast Solutions of its zonecasting system, the FCC opened a new comment period for interested parties

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.

  • The FCC this week released a Public Notice announcing that it is soliciting public comment on the recent tests of

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.

  • A list of “ex parte” presentations made to the FCC (disclosures of presentations made to FCC decision makers outside of

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed the MORE Act which, if enacted, would take marijuana off the list of Schedule I drugs – those drugs whose possession and distribution is a federal felony, as is the use of the radio waves to promote their use.  As we have warned before (see, for instance, our article here published when an earlier version of this bill passed the House in 2020), because of the laws making the sale of marijuana a federal crime and prohibiting the use of radio waves to promote that sale, broadcast stations should think twice about any marijuana advertising, even in states where it has been legalized.  Thus, the passage of MORE Act through the House should not be taken as a sign to start running marijuana advertising on your broadcast station.

First, it is important to remember that this bill was passed only in the House of Representatives.  Without also being approved by the Senate and being signed by the President, the House’s action had no legal effect.  Because of the way that Congress works, if the bill does not pass the Senate in the current legislative session, which ends in the first few days of January 2023, the whole process must start over again – bills do not carry over from one Congressional session to another.  So, if Senate action is not forthcoming this year, a new Congress would have to start with a new bill, and a new House of Representatives and a new Senate would both have to vote to adopt the legislation.   The MORE Act passed the House with few Republican votes, so if the composition of the House changes next year, that may not bode well for this legislation if it does not pass the Senate this year.
Continue Reading House of Representatives Passes MORE Act to Remove Marijuana from Schedule I – Don’t Rush to Start Airing Pot Ads Yet

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.

  • The US House of Representatives, in a bipartisan vote, passed the MORE Act, a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the

Though this April is somewhat lighter than other months on regulatory deadlines for broadcasters, there are still dates to which broadcasters should pay attention.  As noted below, all stations need to pay close attention to the quarterly obligation to post issues/programs lists to your online public file.  Here is more on that date and information on some of the other dates and deadlines in April applicable to broadcasters.

After three years, the radio license renewal filing cycle closes on April 1, with renewal applications due from stations licensed to communities in Delaware and Pennsylvania.  Renewal applications for TV stations licensed to communities in Texas are also due by April 1.  The TV renewal cycle continues through 2023.  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 (radioTV) and consult with your advisors if you have questions, especially if you have noticed any discrepancies in your online public file or political file.
Continue Reading April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: TV and Radio Renewals, Quarterly Issues, New Foreign Government Sponsorship ID Rules, Revised Radio Technical Rules, EEO Audits and Filings, and More

As life slowly returns to something approaching normal after the last two years, radio stations may be inclined to go big on some April Fool’s Day stunt.  But remember that not everyone may be in on the joke and a prank that may seem funny to some could trigger concerns with others.  As we do every year about this time, we need to play our role as attorneys and ruin the fun by repeating our reminder that broadcasters need to be careful with any on-air pranks, jokes or other on-air bits prepared especially for the day.  While a little fun is OK, remember that the FCC does have a rule against on-air hoaxes.  Issues under this rule can arise at any time, but a broadcaster’s temptation to go over the line is probably highest on April 1.

The FCC’s rule against broadcast hoaxes, Section 73.1217, prevents stations from running any information about a “crime or catastrophe” on the air, if the broadcaster (1) knows the information to be false, (2) it is foreseeable that the broadcast of the material will cause substantial public harm and (3) substantial public harm is in fact caused.  Public harm is defined as “direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.”  If you air a program that fits within this definition and causes a public harm, you should expect to be fined by the FCC.
Continue Reading April Fool’s Day and the FCC’s Hoax Rule – Be Careful Out There

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, and a look ahead at an important deadline next week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • New FCC sponsorship identification rules that impose obligations on almost