Public Interest Obligations/Localism

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 two important deadlines in the week ahead, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC Enforcement Bureau this week announced its latest round of random

March is one of those months where no regularly scheduled FCC deadlines fall.  But there are still plenty of other deadlines and dates of importance to broadcasters that fall during this month, from comment dates in rulemaking proceedings, to the start of an auction for new TV stations and the completion of the reimbursement cycle for certain stations involved in the TV repack, to deadlines for radio stations to sign up for the GMR license agreement, and even, with daylight savings time upon us, the time for certain AM stations to adjust their operating parameters.

Let’s start with the rulemaking proceedings.  On March 11, comments are due on an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks to enhance visual EAS messages to assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Reply comments on the NPRM are due by March 28.  The same Federal Register notice that set these comment dates also references an associated Notice of Inquiry that asks for suggestions on how to improve the current EAS daisy chain architecture to better deliver alerts.  Comments and reply comments on the NOI are due by April 11 and May 10, respectively.

Interested parties that want to reply to comments submitted on the FCC’s Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the ATSC 3.0 (Next Gen TV) proceeding must have those reply comments in by March 14.  In that proceeding, the FCC proposes to allow Next Gen TV stations to include within their license certain of their multicast streams that are aired on “host” stations during a transitional period.  Under the FCC’s proposals that are designed to clear up which entity is responsible for legal and regulatory compliance, such multicast streams will be part of the originating station’s license, not that of the “host” station.  See the Federal Register notice, here, and read the comments submitted to the docket, here.
Continue Reading March Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: EAS and Next Gen TV Rulemaking Comments, Incentive Auction Reimbursements, TV Auction, GMR Licensing Deadline, and More

Ads planned to run in yesterday’s Super Bowl by Republican candidates in primaries to select candidates for 2022 senate elections drew comments and controversy even before the game, with some calls to block the ads from the air.  Ads for a candidate in Pennsylvania used the “Let’s Go Brandon” language generally acknowledged to be an allusion to a profanity directed at President Biden (see article here).  In Arizona, a Senate candidate showed the candidate in a fictionalized old west high noon shootout with characters playing President Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mark Kelly (see article here), which some found particularly offensive because of its associating gun violence with Kelly whose wife, Gabby Giffords, was a victim of such violence while serving in Congress.  There were calls for the stations running the game to reject these ads, or for the FCC to penalize stations for those ads.  While popular sentiment may call for such actions, the law does not allow that to happen,

We have written about this issue many times before (see, for instance, our refreshers on the rules with respect to candidate ads, here and our article here), yet these issues still come up all the time whenever a legally qualified candidate produces a controversial ad.  Broadcasters need to know the rules so that they don’t pull an ad that they are not allowed to censor under the FCC’s rules, and that they don’t run one for which they could in fact have liability.
Continue Reading Controversial Super Bowl Political Ads on Local Stations – Why They Can’t Be Pulled

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.

  • Global Music Rights (GMR) and the Radio Music Licensing Committee (RMLC) announced that enough broadcasters had agreed to GMR licensing

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.

  • FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced several leadership changes at the FCC. The changes include a new head of the Media

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 announced that CDBS, the database where all broadcast applications were filed before most migrated to the newer LMS

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

  • The FCC released the results of the August 11 Nationwide EAS Test, finding that, compared to the 2019 test

As the holiday season comes to an end and 2022 comes into focus, broadcasters have several dates and deadlines to keep up with in January and early February.  We have noted below some of the important dates you should be tracking.  However, as always, stay in touch with your station’s lawyers and other regulatory advisors for the dates applicable to your operations.  We wish you a happy, healthy, and successful New Year – and remembering to track important regulatory dates will help you  achieve those ends.

Let’s start with some of the annual dates that always fall in January.  By January 10, full-power radio, TV, and Class A licensees should have their quarterly issues/programs lists uploaded to their online public file.  The lists are meant to identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station broadcast in October, November, and December that addressed those issues.  Prepare the lists carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community.  See our post here for more on this obligation.
Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Issues/Programs Lists; Digital LPTV Deadline; Audio Description Expansion; Children’s Programming, Webcasting Royalties; NCE FM Settlement Window; 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.

  • FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s nomination for another five-year term at the agency was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee. The