At the FCC meeting held on Election Day, the Commission approved the operation of "white spaces" devices in the TV spectrum.  These would be mobile, unlicensed devices that would operate on TV channels that are not used in a particular location.  Many Internet users have hailed the expansion of wireless Internet opportunities that they believe that this decision will bring.  While the FCC promised that these devices would protect television operations and other current uses of the TV Band, many other groups have reacted to the decision far more skeptically.  All in all, we have probably not heard the end of this debate.

The full text of the FCC Order has not yet been released but, from the Public Notice summarizing the action (which came late in the day, after a several hour delay in the start of the FCC meeting), the FCC appears to have made some concessions to the broadcasters who were objecting that the tests of the white spaces devices were not able to adequately sense the presence of television signals in a way that would protect those stations.  So, to protect television signals, the FCC ordered that, in addition to sensing the existence of television signals, the white spaces devices would also have to have geo-location abilities, which would check the location of the device and compare it to a database of television stations and prevent the device from operating on channels that the database shows to be occupied.  Even with this capacity, organizations representing television stations do not believe that this compromise is sufficient to protect those stations.


Continue Reading FCC Approves White Spaces Devices in TV Band – While Some Hail a Boon to Wireless Internet, Others Say Not So Fast

The FCC today released its schedule for Regulatory Fees that will be paid in September of this year.  The Order set the fees to be paid by entities regulated by the FCC, increasing those fees as required by Congress by approximately 7.5% over the fees paid last year. The fees to be paid by broadcasters are set forth below.  Fees for all other services can be found in the appendix to the FCC’s Order setting the fees.  The exact window for paying the fees has not yet been set, but should be announced later this month, in a public notice that will also provide more details on the filing process.  The Order also contains a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, asking if the FCC should change the allocation of fees between the services regulated by the FCC.  As to broadcasters specifically, the FCC asks if it should adopt fees for Digital Television, as the current FCC fees apply only to analog television.  Comments on these issues will be due 30 days after this Order is published in the Federal Register.

In reaching its decision as to the fees for 2008, the FCC decided not to impose a fee on AM expanded band stations for the current fee cycle – but it will decide whether to do so after the FCC decides the issue raised in the pending Diversity proceeding as to whether to allow licensees to retain those AM stations if they are held by a small business entity.

Fees are paid based on the status of the station as of October 1, 2007 (so, for instance, if a station had received an upgrade in the interim, it pays based on its old facilities).  However, the licensee who owns the station as of the date that fees are due is responsible for paying those fees, even if it did not own the station as of October 1, 2007.  Fees for radio are set by a combination of the predicted population served by the station and the class of the station, while TV station’s fees are paid based on TV market size.  Parties holding construction permits for new stations pay flat fees regardless of the area served by the proposed station, and there are also flat fees for broadcast auxiliaries, television stations that are authorized as satellites of other stations, and secondary broadcast stations (e.g. translators).  Noncommercial operators are exempt from the fees.  The fees for broadcasters can be seen by clicking on the "Continue Reading" link below. 


Continue Reading FCC Sets 2008 Regulatory Fees and Starts Proceeding to Reallocate Future 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

We recently wrote about the Federal Communications Commission’s actions in their Diversity docket, designed to promote new entrants into the ranks of broadcast station owners. In addition to the rules adopted in the proceeding, the FCC is seeking comment on a number of other ideas – some to restrict the definition of the Designated Entities that are eligible to take advantage of these rules, others to expand the universe of media outlets available to potential broadcast owners – including proposals to expand the FM band onto TV channels 5 and 6, and proposals to allow certain AM stations, which were to be returned to the FCC after their owners received construction permits for expanded band stations, to retain those stations or transfer them to Designated Entities. The proposals, on which public comment is being sought, are summarized below.

Definition of Designated Entity. The first issue raised by the Commission deals with whether the class of applicants entitled to Designated Entity status and entitled to take advantage of the Commission’s diversity initiatives should be restricted. One proposal is to restrict the Designated Entity status to companies controlled by racial minorities. The Commission expressed skepticism about that proposal, noting that the courts had throw out several versions of the FCC’s EEO rules, finding that there was insufficient justification offered by the FCC to constitutionally justify raced-based preferences. The Commission asked that proponents of such preferences provide a “compelling” showing of needed, as necessary for a constitutional justification for governmental race-based discrimination.


Continue Reading FCC’s Acts to Increase Diversity in Media Ownership – Part 2, The Proposals for Future Actions – Channel 6 for FM, AM Expanded Band, Definition of Designated Entity, Must Carry for Class A TV and Others

At last Tuesday’s FCC meeting, the Commission adopted a controversial order, over the objection of two Commissioners, that could limit the processing of some applications for improvements by some full power FM stations, and would restrict translator applications, all in the name of encouraging Low Power FM (LPFM) stations to provide outlets for expression by groups that cannot get access to full-power radio stations (see our summary of that action here).  In recent weeks, two ideas have received some publicity providing an alternative outlet for these prospective local broadcasters – and both provide a simple solution (one more immediate and ad hoc than that other), but both leading to the same result – why not just extend the FM band by using TV channel 6?

The current FM band begins at 88.1 MHz, a channel that is actually immediately adjacent to TV Channel 6.  The FCC has for years restricted operations of noncommercial FM stations (which operate from 88.1 to 91.9 on the FM dial) in areas where there are Channel 6 TV stations in order to prevent the radio stations from creating interference to the reception of the TV stations.  That’s while you will often find fewer noncommercial stations, or ones with weaker coverage, in communities that have TV Channel 6 licensees.  TV stations use an FM transmission system for their audio.  Thus, you will also find that most FM receivers (especially ones without digital tuners) will pick up the audio from TV channel 6 if tuned all the way to the left of the dial.  The short-term solution to expanding the FM band came from one broadcaster who noted that fact.


Continue Reading Who Needs LPFM? – Why Not Just Expand the FM Dial?