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David Oxenford represents broadcasting and digital media companies in connection with regulatory, transactional and intellectual property issues. He has represented broadcasters and webcasters before the Federal Communications Commission, the Copyright Royalty Board, courts and other government agencies for over 30 years.

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

2022 has begun – and we are all wondering what will lie ahead in the New Year.  Each year, at about this time, we put together a look at highlights of the regulatory dates ahead for broadcasters.  This year is no different – and we offer for your review our Broadcaster’s Regulatory Calendar for 2022

Since the 1990s, the FCC’s Consolidated Database System (CDBS) has been used for filing broadcast applications.  In recent years, though, much of the filing activity has been migrated to the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS).  While in some ways not as user-friendly as CDBS, LMS apparently has some advantages in, among other things, its searchability.  Given the migration that has already occurred for most FM and TV technical applications, ownership reports, and assignment and transfer applications, CDBS had few continuing uses.  Thus, the FCC yesterday announced that it is ending the filing of new applications in the CDBS system at the end of the day today, January 12, 2022, at 5 PM Eastern Time.  All filings that were still being made in CDBS and that cannot be submitted via LMS are now to be made by email to an email address set out in the FCC’s Public Notice: audiofilings@fcc.gov.

What is left that is not filed in LMS?  Filings that, until 5 PM ET today were made in CDBS, include the following:

  • AM Application for Construction Permit for Commercial Broadcast Station on Form 301
  • AM Application for Construction Permit for Reserved Channel Noncommercial Educational Broadcast Station on Form 340
  • AM Applications for Broadcast Station License on Form 302
  • Special Temporary Authority (STA) Engineering Requests and Extension of Engineering STA Requests for all audio service stations
  • Silent STA / Notification of Suspension/ Resumption of Operations / Extension of Silent STA Requests for all audio service stations
  • Change in official mailing address
  • AM Digital Notification on Form 335-AM
  • All-Digital AM Notification on Form 335-AM
  • FM Digital Notification on Form 335-FM
  • Amendments to pending applications previously submitted in CDBS
  • Pleadings (Petitions to Deny, Informal Objections, Oppositions, Replies, Supplements, Petitions for Reconsideration and Applications for Review) concerning applications submitted through CDBS or using the email procedures that had previously been instituted for some of the above-listed applications in recent years.

In connection with the last bullet, the FCC noted that some parties had been filing pleadings related to applications filed in CDBS in LMS (which usually contains a reference to the CDBS-filed application).  The FCC asks that pleadings filed in connection with applications submitted through CDBS be filed with the email system described above, and not through LMS.  Pleadings concerning LMS-submitted applications should, of course, be filed in LMS.
Continue Reading FCC Announces End of Filings in their CDBS Database As of 5 PM Eastern Time Today! 

The FCC, at its January 27 monthly open meeting, will be voting on the adoption of two relatively minor changes to its political broadcasting rules.  While some press reports suggested that the changes would expand the FCC’s jurisdiction into online political advertising, in fact the draft of the FCC’s Report and Order released last week shows that the two rules at issue deal exclusively with over-the-air political advertising.  Moreover, as we wrote here when the proposals were first advanced for public comment, the changes to be adopted are almost ministerial clean-ups of FCC rules, having little substantive effect on the current political sales practices of most broadcasters.

These two rule changes are likely to be adopted at the end of the month by a 4-member FCC that is still evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.  The first one deals with the showing that needs to be made by a write-in candidate to show that the candidate is “legally qualified” and thus entitled to take advantage of the FCC’s political broadcasting rules. The second change would conform the FCC’s rules to the already existing statutory provisions that require broadcasters to include, in their online public files, information about the sale of advertising time to non-candidate buyers who convey a message on a matter of national importance, i.e., a federal issue ad.
Continue Reading FCC Plans to Adopt Two Minor Changes to its Political Broadcasting Rules – What is Being Changed?

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 announced that it will vote on two items of interest to broadcasters at its next Open

A conditional settlement of the long-running litigation between Global Music Rights (GMR), a relatively new performing rights organization formed to license the public performance rights to certain musical works, and the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) was announced this week.  The terms of the agreement are confidential, so we can’t comment on the specifics of the deal.  But each commercial radio station represented by RMLC should have received a proposed license agreement from GMR.  The settlement will only be effective if an undisclosed number of radio broadcasters agree to the terms of the agreement by January 31, 2022.  For stations that do not agree by that date, or if not enough stations opt into the agreement causing the settlement to fail, the press release about the agreement says that GMR has made no commitment to extend the current interim license (about which we wrote here) beyond its current expiration date of March 31, 2022.  Thus, stations would need to otherwise negotiate an agreement with GMR, pull GMR music from their stations, or risk a lawsuit for playing the music without permission.  If your commercial radio station did not receive a communication from GMR in the last few days, and if you play any GMR music and you are not covered by an independently negotiated agreement, you should discuss with counsel whether you should reach out to GMR to see why you were not offered a license.  Similarly, if not all your stations were included in the offer you received, discuss with counsel whether to communicate with GMR.

While we cannot comment on the specifics of the deal because it remains confidential, there are some observations that can be made based on the public statement released by RMLC and GMR.  One of the first questions is why the settlement is conditioned on enough stations agreeing to it by January 31.  First, it is important to note that the agreement by RMLC to any royalty with any music rights organization does not bind all commercial broadcasters, or even RMLC’s members, to accept the deals that it has negotiated.  See, for instance, the agreements in the last few years with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, all of which required broadcasters who wanted to be covered by the negotiated agreement to opt in by a date certain.  While a wide cross-section of broadcast companies is represented on the Board of RMLC which approved this agreement, the Board members do not bind their companies or the rest of the radio industry to accept the terms that were negotiated.
Continue Reading GMR and RMLC Announce Confidential Settlement on Music Royalties for Commercial Radio Stations – Broadcasters Must Decide Whether to Opt In by January 31

As 2021 wound down, there were significant developments on SoundExchange royalties for webcasters – including broadcasters who simulcast their on-air programming through IP channels (such as on their websites and on mobile apps).  While we covered many of these matters in our weekly Sunday updates on regulatory matters of importance to broadcasters, we thought that it would be worth summarizing all of the action in one place.  Most, but not all, of these developments follow from last year’s  Copyright Royalty Board decision  raising webcasting rates for 2021-2025 (see our article here summarizing that decision).

The CRB’s decision was published in the Federal Register in October 2021.  As of that date, all webcasters, if they had not already been doing so, should be paying the higher royalties ($.0021 per song per listener in 2021 for nonsubscription streams).    SoundExchange has appealed the CRB’s decision (presumably to argue the rates should have been set even higher), as have the NAB and the National Religious Broadcasters Noncommercial Music License Committee.  These appeals are pending and likely will be briefed and argued sometime in 2022.  If you have not trued up your payments (the increase in royalties was retroactive to January 1, 2021), consult your legal advisor as to the effect that these appeals may have on your responsibility for that true-up.
Continue Reading A Look at Developments in SoundExchange Webcasting Royalties (Including for Broadcast Simulcasts) From the End of 2021

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.

  • Music licensing organization Global Music Rights (GMR) has agreed to a three-month extension of its current interim licensing agreement. GMR