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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.

Late last year, the FCC announced that it would be opening the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) for the filing of ETRS Form One by February 28, 2023.  This week, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing that that system has in fact been opened, and telling broadcasters that they can now file the required information.  As made clear in the Public Notice, virtually all broadcasters need to file.  This includes LPTV (with minor exceptions) and LPFM stations.  Class D FM stations, exempt from some other FCC regulations, and silent stations also need to file.  Only FM boosters and translators, and other broadcast stations (including LPTVs) that rebroadcast 100% of the programming of a “hub station” where that hub station provides a common studio or control point for all stations, do not need to file this report as long as the “hub station” files the form.  So the requirement is very inclusive. 

ETRS Form One provides basic information about EAS participants to the FCC. The form requests basic information about contact persons at a station, the model of EAS equipment used, and monitoring assignments under the legacy EAS system.  If nothing has changed from prior Form One filings, the Public Notice says that the system provides a way to populate the form with all the information from prior filings so that it does not need to be manually re-entered (although anecdotally we have heard that even minor changes, such as a call sign change, may be problematic).  This is the first of three forms filed in connection with Nationwide EAS tests, testing the ability of the EAS system to distribute a Presidential emergency alert to the entire country.  Form Two reports on the day of the test as to whether the alert was received by a station, while Form Three is submitted after the test to provide information as to what happened during the test.

Continue Reading FCC Announces that Broadcasters Must File EAS Test Reporting System Form One By February 28, 2023 – Almost All Broadcasters Must File

It’s a new year, and it’s time to look ahead at what Washington may have in store for broadcasters this year.  The FCC may be slow to tackle some of the big issues on its agenda (like the completion of 2018 Quadrennial Review or any other significant partisan issue) as it still has only four Commissioners – two Democrats and two Republicans.  On controversial issues like changes to the ownership rules, there tends to be a partisan divide.  As the nomination of Gigi Sohn expired at the end of the last Congress in December, the Biden administration was faced with the question of whether to renominate her and hope that the confirmation process moves more quickly this time, or to come up with a new nominee whose credentials will be reviewed by the Senate.  It was announced this week that the administration has decided to renominate her, meaning that her confirmation process will begin anew.  How long that process takes and when the fifth commissioner is seated may well set the tone for what actions the FCC takes in broadcast regulation this year.

Perhaps the most significant issue at the FCC facing broadcasters is the resolution of the 2018 Quadrennial Review to assess the current local ownership rules and determine if they are still in the public interest.  As we wrote last week, the FCC has already started the 2022 review, as required by Congress, even though it has not resolved the issues raised in the 2018 review.  For the radio industry, those issues include the potential relaxation of the local radio ownership rules.  As we have written, some broadcasters and the NAB have pushed the FCC to recognize that the radio industry has significantly changed since the ownership limits were adopted in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and local radio operators need a bigger platform from which to compete with the new digital companies that compete for audience and advertising in local markets.  Other companies have been reluctant to endorse changes – but even many of them recognize that relief from the ownership limits on AM stations would be appropriate.

Continue Reading Looking Into the Crystal Ball – What’s Coming in Broadcast Regulation in 2023 From the FCC

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 FCC, as required by the Communications Act, released a Public Notice announcing the start of the 2022 Quadrennial

The new year brings a series of regulatory deadlines in January and a February 1 license renewal deadline that broadcasters should take note of.  As in 2022, the FCC will remain vigilant in making sure that its deadlines are met, so the following items should not be overlooked or left until the last minute.

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With the holidays upon us and the end of the year fast approaching, the FCC took care of one piece of business required by statute as it released a Public Notice announcing the start of the 2022 Quadrennial Review of the FCC’s ownership rules.  The FCC is required, once every four years, to review their local ownership rules to see if they remain in the public interest.  The Notice starts the review required for this year even though the 2018 review remains pending with seemingly little likelihood of any action as long as the FCC remains politically divided (currently two Republicans and two Democrats with one open seat).

So, unless the 2018 review is decided and finds that some existing rule is no longer in the public interest and abolishes it, the just announced new review (the “Quad,” as those in DC communications regulatory circles call it) will look at the same issues as the last one did.  Ownership rules governing the limits on radio ownership in each market, largely unchanged since they were first adopted in 1996, are probably the issue that could potentially affect the largest number of broadcasters (see our articles here and here on proposals for change in the radio ownership rules).  Also under review will be issues including the Dual Network Rule, which prohibits combinations of two of the Top 4 TV networks, and a possible clarification of the Top 4 rule on local TV ownership.  The Top 4 rule generally prohibits combinations of two of the Top 4 rated TV stations in any television market.  In 2017, the FCC voted to allow parties to seek a waiver of that prohibition.  Such waiver requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  The proposal raised in the 2018 proceeding was to adopt some bright line tests as to when waivers would be permitted (e.g., allowing combinations of the two lowest rated stations if their audience share did not equal that of the first or second ranked station in the market).
Continue Reading FCC Starts 2022 Quadrennial Review Before the 2018 Review is Complete – Time for Another Look at Radio and TV Local Ownership Rules

As we wrote in our weekly update on regulatory issues of importance to broadcasters, the FCC released an Order last week announcing an upcoming increase in application fees to be paid on any “feeable” application.  For broadcasters, that includes applications for technical changes in facilities, applications for assignments or transfers of control of broadcast companies

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.

  • By a Public Notice issued on December 15, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau told broadcasters to submit

In the last few weeks, a Democratic Senator and a Republican FCC Commissioner have both expressed support for the future of AM radio.  This is not a new topic, being the subject of speculation for at least the last 20 years as FM listening caught up to and surpassed the older service’s audience.  But, when considering worldwide trends, a real question arises as to whether this inquiry is too narrow, and whether the FCC should not be taking more steps to insure the continuation of a free, local broadcast service.

In the last decade, the FCC has considered and, in many cases adopted, various proposals to revitalize the AM service – including providing FM translators for AM stations (see our articles here and here) and permitting all-digital AM operations (see our article here).  Other proposals, including one for across-the-board power increases for AM stations (see our article here) and another to lessen the interference protection enjoyed by high powered “clear channel” AMs, which would allow lower power local AM stations to increase nighttime power (see our article here), have not been adopted.  What new issues are being raised by these recent expressions of support from DC regulators?
Continue Reading Washington Worries About AM Radio – Senator Markey and Commissioner Simington Weigh in on the Future of the Service While Overseas There are Thoughts of Ending Broadcasting Altogether

In our summary of this week’s regulatory actions of importance to broadcasters, we noted that the FCC sent an email to broadcasters last week warning them of a cybersecurity flaw in the DASDEC EAS encoder/decoder device sold by Digital Alert Systems (formerly Monroe Electronics), using software prior to version 4.1. The email states that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an advisory expressing concern that there is a vulnerability in the code used by the system that can be used by remote attackers.  The CISA advisory provides the technical details of the vulnerability.

The fear is that this security flaw can allow bad actors to access not only to the EAS system but, if that system is connected to other station computer networks, to other station information and systems as well.  Securing the EAS system has been a priority of the FCC, with a pending rulemaking proposal (about which we wrote here) that would require stations to adopt cybersecurity plans to secure these systems and report yearly to the FCC about those plans (and report breaches when the station learns of such breaches or when they should have learned about the breach).  The FCC already requires that false EAS alerts be reported to the FCC within 24 hours (see our article here) – but the new proposal would require FCC notice even if no false alert occurred.  With the FCC contemplating the imposition of these obligations on broadcasters, and (of paramount priority) the risks that station operations can be compromised by any cyberbreach, stations need to be extra-vigilant in their cybersecurity considerations.  Thus, any stations that use the identified encoder/decoder must be sure that they have taken the proper actions to secure their stations.
Continue Reading FCC Warns Broadcasters of Specific Cybersecurity Flaw in One EAS Provider’s Equipment – Why Broadcasters Need to Pay Attention

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 sent an e-mail, apparently to all broadcasters, regarding the cybersecurity of broadcast stations that use the DASDEC