The FCC’s proceeding on revitalizing AM radio is headed into its second phase, looking at further steps that it can take to assist the oldest broadcast service adapt and thrive in the new media world. In the Fall, the FCC adopted certain policy and rule changes to help AM stations, most notably allowing wider use of FM translators to rebroadcast AM stations through waivers allowing translators to change channels and be moved up to 250 miles to serve an AM station (see our articles here and here for more details). Now the proceeding moves on to consideration of additional proposals on which the FCC seeks comments. The comments are due on March 21. Proposals to reduce the protections afforded to “clear channel AM stations” and the end of dual-band operations by certain stations that were given expanded band channels (at the top end of the AM dial between 1610 and 1700 AM) have received a fair amount of comment in the trade press, but there are other proposals as well. What are some of the issues that the FCC is considering? A brief summary of some of the proposals is set out below.

Lessening of AM station protections. The FCC offered three proposals for a lessening of interference protections afforded to AM stations. To some, lessening of the interference protections between AM stations might seem to be a backward step in improving the service (and a step that is in many ways undoing the FCC’s last major review of the AM rules 25 years ago, where the focus was on minimizing interference between AM stations). But, in each of these cases, the FCC now sees the major culprit in the decreasing popularity of AM stations as not the interference between AM stations, but instead the interference that comes from environmental background “noise” from all of the electronic gadgets that are now part of everyday life. To overcome that background noise, the FCC’s underlying rationale in most of these proposals is to make it possible for more local AM stations to increase their power. While the power increases might lead to increased interference between AM stations, it is the FCC’s premise that most of the interference would be in areas far from the station’s primary service area – and increased power in the center of service areas would make up for the losses by helping the stations to overcome the background noise. Of course, even with the proposals, not all AM stations will be able to increase power, so the stations that suffer interference in their outer coverage areas may not be the same stations that receive benefits from the service improvement in their core markets. Here are the areas in which the FCC proposes to decrease protections between AM stations.
Continue Reading Comments on FCC Proposals for More AM Revitalization Efforts Due March 21 – What Questions are on the Table?

Right as everyone was preparing to leave town for the long weekend, the FCC issued its Report and Order on the regulatory fees for 2014, and also issued a Public Notice setting the deadline for paying those fees as 11:59 PM on September 23.  For broadcasters, the FCC also issued a Mass Media Fee Filing Guide providing details on the fee filing process, and provided a fee “look-up” tool on the Commission’s website to see what the fees are for a particular station.  The FCC adopted all the fees for broadcast stations as proposed in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (about which we wrote here) with the minor exception of its fees for TV stations, where there were very slight adjustments in the amounts to be paid.  The fees for all categories of broadcasters are provided at the end of this article. 

There are a couple of new wrinkles in the fee filings for broadcasters for this year.  First, there will be no more no more checks or other paper forms of payment.  All payments must be made electronically, through wire transfers, electronic payments, or with a credit card.  If you send a check, it will be returned, and you will be assessed a late fee if the electronic payment is not made by the 23rd.
Continue Reading FCC Regulatory Fees Due On or Before September 23 – What’s New for This Year’s Fees?

The FCC is beginning to consider the amount of annual regulatory fees to be paid by broadcasters and other entities regulated by the FCC.  These fees should be due in August or September of this year, prior to the start of the government’s fiscal year on October 1.  To begin the review process, the FCC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking setting out its proposed fees for this year, as well as highlighting a few issues for public comment concerning the computation of fees in the future.  Comments on the FCC proposals are due on July 7, with reply comments a week later.

Regulatory fees are to be paid by entities regulated by the FCC in proportion to the costs of their regulation, computed by the number of FCC employees who are tasked with administering the rules for a particular service.  Congress tells the FCC how much the FCC needs to raise from fees, and the FCC divides up that burden by the number of “full time equivalents” (FTEs) who are assigned to regulating a particular service.  The FCC spends much time in its NPRM evaluating how to assign the responsibility for various employees to a particular service in order to arrive at the proper allocation of fees.  The Commission asks for comments on these proposals which, when adopted, might affect the allocation of fees to the entities regulated by the Media Bureau (like broadcasters) and by those regulated by other FCC bureaus.  The Commission also noted a few broadcast-specific proposals.
Continue Reading FCC Seeks Comments on Proposals for This Year’s Regulatory Fees

The FCC today issued an order extending the comment deadline in its Broadcast Diversity proceeding, extending the comment date a full month until July 30, with Reply Comments now due on August 29.  This important proceeding, about which we wrote here, will address many issues, including proposals to, among other things, repurpose television

The Commission today published notice in the Federal Register revising the dates for submitting comments in its rule making "In the Matter of Promoting Diversification of Ownership in the Broadcasting Services."  If you will recall, this is the rule making proceeding that seeks comment on a number of new proposals, including whether to

UPDATE  5-29-2008-  Please note, the Commission has revised the dates for submitting comments in this rule making proceeding.  Comments in the proceeding are now due on or before June 30, 2008, and Reply Comments are due on or before July 14, 2008.  This means that interested parties have a couple of weeks less than

The FCC today released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for public comment on its proposed Regulatory Fees for 2008.  These fees are paid annually by most commercial entities that are regulated by the FCC for the privilege of being regulated.  Noncommercial broadcasters are exempt from the fees.  The fees are normally paid in August or September, during a period of several days that will be established by the Commission after receiving comments on this proposed fee schedule.  The fees for broadcasters are, as they seemingly always do, increasing.  The Commission is also asking for comment on one specific change in how broadcast fees are collected, asking if it should collect fees from AM station licensees who have expanded band stations for both the expanded band station and the in-core channel, if the licensee is still operating both.  Currently, fees are only paid once by expanded band licensees. 

Broadcast fees are based on Class of Service and the population covered by a station.  For AM stations, the proposed fees are to increase from $400 per station for the least powerful stations in the smallest market to $450, and from $7275 for high-powered stations in the largest markets  to $7925.  For FM stations, the least powerful stations in the smallest markets are proposed to increase from $575 to $600.  For high power stations in big markets, the increase is from $9125 to $10,200.  For TV stations, the fees range from $1875 for a UHF station in the smallest markets, up to $69,400 for a VHF station in the largest markets, up from $1750 and $64,300 last year. 


Continue Reading FCC Proposes 2008 Regulatory Fee Schedule

In a very unusual process – one that is probably unprecedented – the FCC last week announced that it is opening a window for parties to file applications for a new AM station to serve Rockland County, New York.  AM stations are traditionally made available for filing on an on-demand basis – when the FCC accepts applications for new stations, parties can file in any location in the country, specifying any city of license that they select, as long as the station that they propose will not create interference to existing stations.  This is unlike FM and TV, where there is a two step process – new channels are first allotted at specific locations based on a party’s request, but that party gets no rights to the channel.  Instead, after the allotment has been made, anyone can file for in a specified window seeking a construction permit to build the new station.  In this window, the FCC has adopted a unique process for an AM stations, a process much more like that used in FM and TV.  The Commission had been asked by a party for permission to operate a new station in Rockland County.  Instead of simply permitting that party to build a station without competition, the FCC decided that a new station was necessary to provide emergency information about the nuclear power plant in the Rockland area, but determined that anyone could file for that channel.  Applications for the channel (1700 AM – on the expanded band, for which there have been no applications for almost 10 years since the first set of expressions of interest were taken), will be accepted from October 1 through October 5.

In order to give parties the ability to prepare applications, the FCC is imposing a freeze on the filing of minor change applications for AM stations throughout the country during the filing window.  Any minor change application that is filed during the window will be returned.  So if you are planning an application for a technical change to your AM station, you need to plan to avoid that filing window.


Continue Reading AM Filing Freeze While FCC Accepts Applications for a New AM in Rockland County, New York