In a Consent Decree released earlier this week, the FCC showed how serious it is about requiring that when a broadcaster applies for and receives authority to construct a new station or a modification of an existing station, it really plans to construct the station and operate on a permanent basis. In this case, a company called Lowcountry Media agreed to pay $250,000 to the government and surrender FCC authorizations for about 100 LPTV stations to resolve allegations that it had abused FCC processes by filing for and receiving construction permits for changes in at least 30 of its stations without a serious intent to permanently construct and operate each station to serve the public in the area authorized by the permits.  After Lowcountry agreed to these penalties, the FCC allowed the sale of numerous other Lowcountry stations, and gave Lowcountry additional time to construct other new stations whose authorizations it retained.

The FCC explained its concerns leading to the penalties in the following language:

While some Stations were constructed with temporary facilities because of Lowcountry’s alleged difficulty obtaining permanent equipment as a result of supply chain issues….. at least 30 of Lowcountry’s stations were constructed with temporary facilities and only operated for a limited duration (a matter of days) with no apparent intention to provide permanent programming to viewers.

Lowcountry’s business plan apparently was to utilize the Commission’s minor modification application process to relocate the facilities distances greater than 30 miles, without contour overlap, and never permanently operate them at the location specified in the construction permits it acquired from prior licensees and in some cases applied for itself. The Bureau believes that Lowcountry’s actions and filings amounted to an abuse of the Commission’s licensing processes…..

In the LPTV service, the holder of a license or permit for a station can file a “minor change” application at any time.  A minor change is a change in the power or location of a station where some portion of the station’s existing service area overlaps with the area proposed to be served in the newly proposed facilities.  However, in no event can a minor change move a station more than 30 miles.  A major change is one does not fit within the definitions of a minor change.  Major changes can only be filed only when the FCC opens a major change window – which rarely happens (and is usually accompanied by the opportunity to file for new stations – as a major change in an existing facility would preclude the opportunity for someone else to file for a new station).  The FCC is concerned about a broadcaster using multiple “hops” of an LPTV which is not tied to any specific city to accomplish, through serial minor modifications what should only be permitted by a major change – and by doing so cutting off other applicant’s opportunity to file for a new station at some point in the future when a new window does in fact open.  The FCC had a secondary concern that many of these permits were received in a window almost 15 years ago when applicants were restricted to filing for stations in rural areas and, through multiple hops, some of these stations were moved into metropolitan areas.
Continue Reading $250,000 Fine and Surrender of 100 LPTV Authorizations Shows FCC Insistence on Permanent Construction of Stations Authorized by Construction Permits – “Serial Moves” Can Be Abuse of Process

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’s Enforcement Bureau issued a Notice of Apparent Liability proposing a $20,000 fine on an iHeart radio station for

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 proposed a $32,000 fine to a subsidiary of Cumulus Media for EEO and public file violations by a

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

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.

  • Following up on its proposals from last summer to clean up radio technical rules that were inconsistent, outdated, or inaccurate,

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.

  • The FCC adopted two items of interest to broadcasters that were on the agenda for its January 27 Open Meeting.

The FCC sent out a flurry of reminders to broadcasters who did not file their Biennial Ownership Reports by the December 1, 2021 deadline.  As we wrote in our reminder in November, these reports were to be filed by licensees of all full-power radio and TV stations (commercial and noncommercial), as well as by

Before we jump into February dates, let’s take a look at some important dates still to come in January.  Noncommercial radio applicants whose applications were found to be mutually exclusive (MX) with one or more other applications filed in the reserved band window have through January 28 to submit technical amendments or work with others in their MX group to enter into settlement agreements or otherwise resolve conflicts.  See the MX groups, here, and the Public Notice setting out the details of the settlement window and filing procedures, here.

By January 31, television stations must fulfill their now-annual obligation to prepare and file a  Children’s Television Programming Report (Form 2100, Schedule H).  Also due to be uploaded to the online public file is a certification of compliance with commercial limits in children’s programming.  Schedule H would normally be due to be filed by January 30 but, as that date is a Sunday this year, the filing deadline is the next business day—January 31.  Records documenting compliance with the limits on the number of commercial minutes that stations can allow in children’s programming are also due to be uploaded to each full-power and Class A TV station’s public file by January 31—another January 30 deadline pushed to the next business day.  As a reminder, the quarterly filings were replaced with annual filings as part of the 2019 KidVid rule changes (we summarized those changes, here).
Continue Reading February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Children’s TV Reporting, License Renewals, EEO Filings, FCC Proceedings, and More