September is one of those unusual months, where there are no regular filing dates for EEO public inspection file reports, quarterly issues programs lists or children’s television reports.  With the unusual start to the month with Labor Day being so late, and the lack of routine deadlines, we didn’t get our usual monthly highlights of upcoming regulatory dates posted as the month began.  While we didn’t do it early, we actually have not missed the many regulatory deadlines and important dates about which broadcasters need to take note this month.

Several are of particular importance for virtually all broadcasters.  As we wrote here and here, Annual Regulatory Fees for all commercial broadcasters are due by September 27.  Any commercial broadcaster that cumulatively owes more than $500 must file its fees by that date – and the fee filing system is already open.  Note that most noncommercial entities are excused from fee filings.
Continue Reading September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: EAS Test, Reg Fees, Lowest Unit Rates, Incentive Auction Stage 2

The FCC today released a series of public notices setting September 27 as the deadline for the filing of Annual Regulatory fees.  We wrote here about the FCC Order setting the amount of those fees, and reminding TV stations, even ones looking to surrender their licenses in the incentive auction, that they must still pay those fees by the upcoming deadline.  These notices also announced that the fee filing system is now up and operating, so fees can be paid at any time.  Finally, the notices talk about some of the details of the fee filing process, covering who is eligible and how exemptions from fee obligations can be obtained.

One of the Public Notices sets out instructions for requests for waivers and deferrals of the fee obligations.  Any party thinking about filing such a request needs to carefully follow the instructions and fully document the reasons for the waiver, as the failure to fully follow the rules will result in penalties and interest.  In fact, to avoid the potential for penalties and interest, the FCC suggests paying the fee and asking for a refund, rather than asking for a deferral and waiver of the fee obligations. 
Continue Reading Regulatory Fees Due By September 27 – Fee Filing Guides and Instructions for Waivers or Deferrals Released by FCC

While TV broadcasters can enjoy an incentive auction respite in July as attention shifts to the “forward auction” where we will see whether wireless carriers come up with enough money to fund the $86,422,558,704 (plus $1.75 billion for repacking costs, plus auction-related administrative costs) needed for the buyout of TV stations who agreed to surrender their spectrum, radio broadcasters will get some of their own attention as, at the end of the month, the second window for the filing of 250-mile waiver applications opens for Class A and B AM stations. We wrote about these waivers here, which allow an AM licensee to acquire an FM translator and file an application to move it up to 250 miles and operate it on any commercial frequency that does not create interference in their market. That window for Class A and B AM stations opens July 29 and runs through October 31 (and remains open for any other AM that has not already filed one of these waivers in the first window which opened back in January).

In addition to the AM window, there are routine filing deadlines for all TV stations – required to file their FCC Form 398 Children’s Television Reports by the 11th of the month (because the 10th of July is a Sunday) demonstrating the educational and informational programming they broadcast directed to children. By the 10th television stations also need to upload information into their online public files to demonstrate compliance with the limits on commercial time in children’s programs.
Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – FM Translators for Class A and B AMs; Quarterly Issue Programs and Children’s Television Reports; Comments on EAS, Letters from the Public and Regulatory Fees, Cable Royalty Claims; and More

FCC regulatory fees come around each year, and it seems like they always go up.  This year is no different, as the FCC has asked for comments on its proposed fees to be paid later this year (probably in September), and the proposed fees go up significantly for broadcasters.  The fees are meant to recoup the costs of the FCC’s regulation of the industries that it oversees.  Minimal changes are proposed due to the FCC’s refining of the roles that are played by some of its employees in regulating different types of communications services.  But this year, as the FCC’s lease for its headquarters building is expiring, its operational costs have to include not just the normal expenses of the FCC’s operations, but also the added expense of the probable relocation of the agency.  This one-time expense results in a major increase in the fees being charged.  While the increased fees are a one-time expense, there are certain to be complaints from broadcasters when they see the size of the increase in their fees to be paid this year.

Each year, the FCC goes through a familiar process – asking for comments on an essentially expedited basis so that the fees can be adopted and collected before the end of the government’s fiscal year – October 1.  This year is no different, and the week before last, the FCC asked for comments on the fees to be collected this year – with comments on the proposals due on June 20 and replies due on July 5.  Let’s look at some of the proposed changes.
Continue Reading FCC Regulatory Fees for Broadcasters Proposed to Increase Significantly to Cover Cost of FCC Headquarters Move

While summer has just about arrived, FCC regulatory dates do not depart to the beach and leave the world behind.  Instead, there are a host of filing deadlines this month.  EEO Public Inspection file reports must, by June 1, be placed in the public inspection files of stations that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time employees if the stations are located in the following states: Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.  Radio stations in Michigan and Ohio that are part of employment units with 11 or more full-time employees need to also file an FCC Mid-Term EEO Report on FCC Form 397 (see our article on the Form 397 here).  TV stations with 5 or more employees also need to file that report if they are located in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia or the District of Columbia.

There are regular dates, too, for noncommercial stations in certain states when licensees must file their Biennial Ownership Reports on FCC Form 323E.  While these reports will eventually be filed on December 1 of odd-numbered years, at the same time as Biennial Ownership Reports of commercial stations, at this point the new rules have not yet gone into effect (see our articles here and here).  Thus, by June 1, the licensees of noncommercial radio stations in Michigan and Ohio and noncommercial TV stations in Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia must file their Biennial Ownership Reports.
Continue Reading June Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO and Noncommercial Ownership Reports, Incentive Auction, Radio Online Public File, and Comments on EAS and Regulatory Fees