Public Interest Obligations/Localism

A new year – and our annual opportunity to pull out the crystal ball and look at the legal issues that will be facing broadcasters in the new year.  We’ve already published our 2024 Broadcasters Calendar and, as we noted before the holidays, it highlights the many lowest unit rate windows for the November election.  With a heavily contested election almost upon us, there may be calls on the FCC to modify regulations affecting political broadcasting or for more monitoring of broadcasters’ online public files, which caused so many issues in recent years (see for instance, our posts here and here).  Even if there are no FCC proceedings that deal with the rules for political broadcasting, the election will be watched by all broadcasters, and all Americans, to see the direction in which the country will head for the next four years.  With that election looming, 2024 may be a very active year in regulation as there traditionally is significant post-election turnover at the FCC no matter which party wins.  With that turnover in mind, we may see Commissioners looking to cement their regulatory legacies in the coming year.

Last year, we noted the number of pending issues at the FCC that had not been resolved because of the partisan deadlock on the Commission while the nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the one vacant seat was stalled in the Senate.  That deadlock was finally overcome by her withdrawal from consideration and the subsequent nomination and confirmation of Anna Gomez, who was sworn in as a Commissioner in late September.  Since then, the FCC has acted on several long-pending priorities, including the adoption of open internet rules and, for broadcasters, last week’s adoption of an Order resolving the 2018 Quadrennial Review of the local broadcast ownership rules (see our summary of that action here). Continue Reading Gazing into the Crystal Ball at Legal and Policy Issues for Broadcasters in 2024 – Part I: What to Expect From the FCC

While we normally publish a weekly summary of regulatory actions relevant to broadcasters, the weekend before last we said that we would take the holiday weeks off – and return with a summary on January 7 of all that occurred over the break – unless there was news in the interim.  Well, there has been

The new year brings a series of noteworthy regulatory deadlines for broadcasters in January.  As always, broadcasters should consult with their own attorneys and advisors to make sure that they are aware of and ready to act on any other deadlines that are not listed below.

Congress still has not passed budget bills for the fiscal year that started on October 1, and some of the “continuing resolutions” to fund the federal government at last year’s levels run out on January 19, with the FCC’s budget set to expire on February 2.  Thus, at least a partial government shutdown may well occur if Congress fails to act this month.  As we previously discussed here and here, if a government shutdown does occur, some government agencies may have to cease all but critical functions if they do not have any residual funds to continue operations.  If no funding is approved, the FCC will announce how any shutdown will affect it, including whether it has any residual funds to keep operating beyond any general funding deadline.  Watch Congressional actions and any FCC announcements to see how any deadlines that apply to your station will be affected by the funding deadline.

With those concerns in mind, let’s look at some of the specific dates and deadlines for broadcasters in January.  Beginning January 1, television stations affiliated with the Top 4 Networks and operating in Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMAs) 91 through 100 will be added to the list of markets that are subject to the FCC’s audio description rules.  The DMAs where the rules become effective on January 1 are:  El Paso (Las Cruces), Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg, Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, Burlington-Plattsburgh, Baton Rouge, Jackson, MS, Fort-Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Boise, South Bend-Elkhart, and Myrtle Beach-Florence – in addition to Chattanooga and Charleston, SC, which were previously in DMAs 92 and 91, respectively, but are now in DMAs 84 and 88.  We reported here on the FCC’s recent reminder that these new markets will be subject to the audio description requirements as of January 1.  TV stations associated with the Top 4 networks in these markets are required to provide audio description for 50 hours of programming per calendar quarter, either during prime time or in children’s programming, and 37.5 additional hours of audio description per calendar quarter between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. local time, on each programming stream that carries one of the top four commercial television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC). Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Expansion of Audio Description Requirements, Music Royalty Cost of Living Increases, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, Childrens Television Programming Reporting, Political Windows, and More

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

  • The AM for Every Vehicle Act was scheduled for a US Senate vote this week through an expedited process

Even with the holidays upon us, regulation never stops.  There are numerous regulatory dates in December to which broadcasters need to keep in mind.  Furthermore, as the 2024 presidential campaign is already underway, there are political advertising deadlines to watch out for.  Here are some of the upcoming deadlines:

December 1 is the filing deadline for Biennial Ownership Reports by all licensees of commercial and noncommercial full-power TV/AM/FM stations, Class A TV stations, and LPTV stations.  The reports must reflect station ownership as of October 1, 2023 (see our article here on the FCC’s recent reminder about these reports).  The FCC has been pushing for stations to fill these out completely and accurately by the deadline (see this reminder issued by the FCC last week), as the Commission uses these reports to get a snapshot of who owns and controls what broadcast stations, including information about the race and gender of station owners and their other broadcast interests (see our article from 2021 about the importance the FCC attaches to these filings). Continue Reading December Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Biennial Ownership Reports, Annual EEO Public File Reports, LPFM Filing Window, LUC Political Windows for 2024 Election, and More

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 NAB and REC Networks, an LPFM advocacy organization, jointly requested an extension of the December 12, 2023 deadline for

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 has until December 27th to comply with a court order requiring the agency to conclude its still-pending

Monday was the 85th anniversary of the Mercury Players broadcast of the Orson Welles production of The War of the Worlds – a radio broadcast that seemingly scared many Americans into thinking that the country was under attack by Martians, that my home state of New Jersey had been overrun, and that the rest of the country would soon follow.  There has been much media coverage of that broadcast in the last week.  Ten years ago, on its 75th anniversary, we wrote an article that is worth revisiting now, with some edits to look at more recent activity that might bear on any repeat of The War of the Worlds controversy.

On the 75th anniversary of The War of the Worlds broadcast, PBS’s American Experience ran a great documentary about the production – talking about Orson Welles’ decision to delay an announcement that the program was a fictional production, not a real invasion, long after his network superiors ordered that announcement because the network phone lines were tied up with anxious callers.  Also tied up were the phone lines of emergency responders, and the broadcast supposedly caused people to leave their homes to flee the path of the oncoming invaders.  The PBS program talked about how the FCC opened an investigation into the program, and how Congress demanded that laws be passed to prevent such a broadcast from happening again.  Essentially, through some well-publicized apologies by Welles and others involved in the program, and a promise by the network to take steps to prevent it from happening again, the FCC closed its investigation, and no law was passed by Congress.  Even though the government did not act 75 years ago, it is interesting to look at how the FCC has changed since that time, and why such a broadcast would not fly under FCC rules today.Continue Reading Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds Turns 85 – Could the Panic It Caused Happen Today? 

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.

  • FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel announced that two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs) have been drafted, which, if adopted by

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.

  • In a last-minute reprieve, the House and Senate agreed on Saturday, September 30 to fund the government for another 45