The FCC’s Video Division yesterday issued a Notice of Apparent Liability to a Baltimore TV station for airing a commercial for a Hot Wheels product in eight showings of the program “Team Hot Wheels.”  The Commission has, for almost 30 years, had a policy against what they term “program-length commercials” – programs that feature characters who are also featured in a commercial that runs during the program.  The FCC has been concerned that children may not perceive the difference between a program and a commercial that runs in that program if both feature the same characters.  If the whole program is perceived as promoting the product, then the program would exceed the commercial limits in children’s programming set by Congress and incorporated in Section 73.670 of the rules – 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.

A decade ago, this was a significant issue.  On one day in 2010, the FCC issued seven Notices of Apparent Liability, seeking fines of as much as $70,000 for these violations (see our article here).  Even before that, we noted how stations can inadvertently find themselves in these situations when featured characters unexpectedly pop up in commercials for products other than those that are directly for products featuring those characters.  So, where a cartoon character appears on an ad for a video game, that can make the entire program a commercial – even though the broadcaster may not have realized until after the fact that the character would be featured in the video game commercial.  In this week’s case, the facts are a little different, but still emphasize the care that TV broadcasters need to exert to ensure that nothing is aired that could make a program into a program-length commercial.
Continue Reading FCC Proposes $20,000 Fine for TV Station Program-Length Commercial in Children’s Programming

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.

  • After reviewing comments submitted this summer (we wrote about the rulemaking, here), the FCC will vote at its next

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.

  • On November 12, the notice was published in the Federal Register of the lifting of the filing freeze for certain

While much of the world was focused on election results, the FCC announced its transition of a few more of its applications from the CDBS database that it has used for several decades to its newer LMS database.  The FCC’s Public Notice released earlier this week announced that assignments and transfer applications (both long-form

The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice making clear that lowest unit rates (or lowest unit charges) end on Election Day.  Some broadcasters had asked the question, fearful that there would be political advertising bought after Election Day to take positions on issues about counting the vote and other legal matters that could arise

Last week we wrote about the October 30 effective date of new FCC rule changes on the public notice requirements for certain broadcast applications, including applications for the assignment of license or transfer of control of a station and applications for renewal of license.  On Friday, the FCC’s Media Bureau released a Public Notice

It has been a busy week for regulatory actions affecting broadcasters.  Here are some of the significant developments of 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 held a virtual Open Meeting on Tuesday, voting to approve an

A freeze on technical improvements by full-power TV stations is about to come to an end after more than 15 years. Television stations have been unable to improve their coverage areas by a freeze first instituted in 2004 to allow the FCC to deal with a stable database of television stations during the transition to digital operations.  After that, the freeze was soon reinstated to facilitate the incentive auction and subsequent repacking of the TV band into less spectrum so that TV channels above 37 could be auctioned for use for new wireless communications technologies.  The FCC’s Media Bureau yesterday issued a Public Notice announcing that it will finally lift the filing freeze – that thaw to be effective 15 days after the Public Notice is published in the Federal Register.

Specifically, the Bureau will lift the restrictions on the following types of applications:

  • Petitions for rulemaking to change channels in the DTV Table of Allotments (where a station moves from one channel to another) or petitions to swap channels between two existing stations.
  • Petitions for rulemaking for new DTV allotments which could give broadcasters the opportunity to apply for new TV stations.
  • Petitions for rulemaking to change communities of license.
  • Modification applications that increase a full power or Class A station’s service area beyond an area that is already served.


Continue Reading FCC to Lift Freeze on TV Station Technical Improvement Applications

In May, the FCC voted to change its requirements for public notices of broadcast applications (see our post here) – standardizing the messages that must be conveyed to the public and eliminating the need for newspaper publication in those instances where it was still required.  The new rules also require that each commercial station include a link on its website to another webpage where public notice of pending applications is provided, and that link needs to be maintained whether or not a commercial station has any applications requiring public notice pending.  That decision will become effective tomorrow (October 30) based on its publication in the Federal Register today.  So we thought that we would revisit the summary we provided of the changes in the notice rules.

When a broadcaster files certain types of applications with the FCC, the public must be informed.  In May, the FCC issued its Order changing the rules regarding the public notice that must be given – consolidating what was a confusing process with different language and timing for notice about different types of applications into one providing standardized disclosures and scheduling for all public notices.  The decision (which is effective tomorrow) eliminates obligations for the newspaper publication that was required for some public notices.  It also requires the inclusion of a permanent “FCC Applications” link on the homepage of each commercial station’s website, whether or not they have any applications pending (noncommercial stations only need to include a link when they have applications pending and their stations are not operational and cannot broadcast the required notice).  Let’s look at some of the other changes that are now effective.
Continue Reading Changes to FCC Public Notice Requirements Effective October 30 – New Link Required on Commercial Station Websites

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