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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.

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed the MORE Act which, if enacted, would take marijuana off the list of Schedule I drugs – those drugs whose possession and distribution is a federal felony, as is the use of the radio waves to promote their use.  As we have warned before (see, for instance, our article here published when an earlier version of this bill passed the House in 2020), because of the laws making the sale of marijuana a federal crime and prohibiting the use of radio waves to promote that sale, broadcast stations should think twice about any marijuana advertising, even in states where it has been legalized.  Thus, the passage of MORE Act through the House should not be taken as a sign to start running marijuana advertising on your broadcast station.

First, it is important to remember that this bill was passed only in the House of Representatives.  Without also being approved by the Senate and being signed by the President, the House’s action had no legal effect.  Because of the way that Congress works, if the bill does not pass the Senate in the current legislative session, which ends in the first few days of January 2023, the whole process must start over again – bills do not carry over from one Congressional session to another.  So, if Senate action is not forthcoming this year, a new Congress would have to start with a new bill, and a new House of Representatives and a new Senate would both have to vote to adopt the legislation.   The MORE Act passed the House with few Republican votes, so if the composition of the House changes next year, that may not bode well for this legislation if it does not pass the Senate this year.
Continue Reading House of Representatives Passes MORE Act to Remove Marijuana from Schedule I – Don’t Rush to Start Airing Pot Ads Yet

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 US House of Representatives, in a bipartisan vote, passed the MORE Act, a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the

Though this April is somewhat lighter than other months on regulatory deadlines for broadcasters, there are still dates to which broadcasters should pay attention.  As noted below, all stations need to pay close attention to the quarterly obligation to post issues/programs lists to your online public file.  Here is more on that date and information on some of the other dates and deadlines in April applicable to broadcasters.

After three years, the radio license renewal filing cycle closes on April 1, with renewal applications due from stations licensed to communities in Delaware and Pennsylvania.  Renewal applications for TV stations licensed to communities in Texas are also due by April 1.  The TV renewal cycle continues through 2023.  Renewal applications must be accompanied by FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 Broadcast EEO Program Report (except for LPFMs and TV translators).  Stations filing for renewal of their license should make sure that all documents required to be uploaded to the station’s online public file are complete and were uploaded on time.  Note that your Broadcast EEO Program Report must include two years of annual EEO public file reports for FCC review, unless your employment unit employs fewer than five full-time employees.  Be sure to read the instructions for the license renewal application (radioTV) and consult with your advisors if you have questions, especially if you have noticed any discrepancies in your online public file or political file.
Continue Reading April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: TV and Radio Renewals, Quarterly Issues, New Foreign Government Sponsorship ID Rules, Revised Radio Technical Rules, EEO Audits and Filings, and More

As life slowly returns to something approaching normal after the last two years, radio stations may be inclined to go big on some April Fool’s Day stunt.  But remember that not everyone may be in on the joke and a prank that may seem funny to some could trigger concerns with others.  As we do every year about this time, we need to play our role as attorneys and ruin the fun by repeating our reminder that broadcasters need to be careful with any on-air pranks, jokes or other on-air bits prepared especially for the day.  While a little fun is OK, remember that the FCC does have a rule against on-air hoaxes.  Issues under this rule can arise at any time, but a broadcaster’s temptation to go over the line is probably highest on April 1.

The FCC’s rule against broadcast hoaxes, Section 73.1217, prevents stations from running any information about a “crime or catastrophe” on the air, if the broadcaster (1) knows the information to be false, (2) it is foreseeable that the broadcast of the material will cause substantial public harm and (3) substantial public harm is in fact caused.  Public harm is defined as “direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.”  If you air a program that fits within this definition and causes a public harm, you should expect to be fined by the FCC.
Continue Reading April Fool’s Day and the FCC’s Hoax Rule – Be Careful Out There

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, and two important deadlines in the week ahead, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC Enforcement Bureau this week announced its latest round of random

The FCC yesterday released another of its regular EEO audit notices (available here), this time targeting over 250 radio and TV stations.  Those stations, and the station employment units (commonly owned stations serving the same area) with which they are associated, must provide to the FCC (by posting the information in their online public inspection file) their last two year’s EEO Annual Public File reports, as well as backing data to show that the station in fact did everything that was required under the FCC rules.

Audited stations must provide copies of notices sent to employment outreach sources about each full-time vacancy at the stations as well as documentation of the supplemental efforts that all station employment units with 5 or more full-time employees are required to perform (whether or not they had job openings in any year). These non-vacancy specific outreach efforts are designed to educate the community about broadcast employment positions and to train employees for more senior roles in broadcasting. Stations must also provide, in response to the audit, information about how they self-assessed the performance of their EEO program. Stations that are listed in the audit notice have until May 5, 2022 to upload this information to their online public file.
Continue Reading FCC Releases First EEO Audit of 2022 – Notices Sent to Over 250 Radio and TV Stations

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, and a look ahead at an important deadline next week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • New FCC sponsorship identification rules that impose obligations on almost

The FCC this week announced that broadcasters must now comply with new rules designed to identify when programming is run on U.S. stations that was provided by a foreign governmental entity pursuant to a lease of airtime.  While this seems like a narrow purpose, the new rules will impose a burden on broadcasters.  Because of First Amendment considerations, the FCC cannot totally prohibit the broadcast of such programming, but it adopted this rule to ensure that audiences are informed about programming backed by a foreign government.  The NAB and other groups have appealed the FCC’s rules, and that appeal is pending.  The court also denied a request to delay the requirements of the new rules from going into effect.  Thus, broadcasters must begin to comply with the rules now.

The FCC’s rules require broadcasters to make a very specific sponsorship identification disclosure in programming aired under an agreement for the lease of airtime if that programming has been supplied by a “foreign governmental entity” (defined in the rule), or if anyone involved in the production or distribution of that programming aired pursuant to the lease agreement (or a sub-lease) qualifies as a foreign governmental entity.  A foreign government entity is defined by the FCC rule (Section 73.1212(j)) to “include governments of foreign countries, foreign political parties, agents of foreign principals, and United States-based foreign media outlets.”  The rule goes on to give other specific definitions of these terms.
Continue Reading New Rules on the Identification of Foreign Government-Provided Programs Affects All Broadcasters – Now in Effect  

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, and a look ahead to events of importance next week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The Media Bureau this week released the first of what