April is one of those months with many routine FCC obligations. Quarterly Issues Programs lists need to be in your public file by the 10th of the month. This is an obligation for all full-power broadcast stations – commercial or noncommercial. Similarly, all TV stations have an obligation to submit their Children’s Television Reports on FCC Form 398 demonstrating compliance with the obligations to provide educational and informational programming directed to children, and at the same time put into their public files documents showing their compliance with the limitations on commercials within programming directed to children.

EEO public file reports are due for stations that are part of an employment unit with 5 or more full-time (30 or more hours per week) employees which is located in any of the following states: Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. Noncommercial TV stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee; and noncommercial radio stations in Texas, need to file their Biennial Ownership Reports with the FCC on April 1. Finally, license renewal applications in the last license renewal window for this license renewal cycle are due to be filed on April 1 by TV stations (and TV translators and LPTV stations) in Delaware and Pennsylvania. The next regularly scheduled license renewal will be filed by radio stations in certain states – but not until June 2019!
Continue Reading April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Including Quarterly Issues Programs and Children’s Television Reports; Comments In Proceedings Including One on Digital Auxiliaries; and More Incentive Auction Seminars

An FCC Regional Director of its Enforcement Bureau this week issued a Forfeiture Order fining a New Mexico broadcaster $25,000 as three of his Studio Transmitter Link auxiliary stations were operating from an unauthorized location – each located about half a mile from where they were supposed to be according to their FCC licenses.  While

What should broadcasters worry about from an FCC inspection? A few weeks ago, I was speaking at the Kansas Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention. At the convention, I attended a session conducted by an FCC field inspector and the engineer who conducts the "alternate broadcast inspection program" ("ABIP") for the KAB.  We’ve written about the ABIP program before, and how beneficial participation in that program can be for stations that want to avoid an FCC inspection and possible fine. At the convention, these inspectors talked about the issues on which the FCC is focusing in recent inspections. These issues are not to the exclusion of other common issues that we have written about before – like the need to keep the public file updated, the completion of quarterly issues programs lists, the need to maintain operational an EAS encoder/decoder, and the requirements for manned main studios. But there are other issues, including some that have not been a focus in the past, that now require broadcasters to be on guard.

One issue deals with broadcast auxiliaries. These are the licenses that broadcasters use in connection with their main studio operation. This includes licenses like Studio-Transmitter Links (STLs) that relay programming from the studio to the transmitter site and Remote Pickups (RPUs) that convey remote information back to the studio. During the summer, the FCC fined several stations for using auxiliaries without a license in amounts up to $20,000 (here and here), and issued a fine for $8000 for a station using an STL at a location different than that set out on the STL’s license. Have you moved a main studio in recent times? If so, did you amend your STL license to specify the new studio location – which is most likely the new transmit site for the STL? If you haven’t, and the FCC catches you, you may be looking at a fine.

Continue Reading FCC Inspection Issues for Broadcasters – Auxiliary Licenses, Chief Operator Designations, and Tower Issues

Microwave frequencies used by television stations for their TV Pick-Ups for the transport of programming, and by cable systems for their CARS relays, were the subject of an FCC order last week looking to repurpose these frequencies to provide backhaul for wireless broadband and other telecommunications uses.  The Commission’s order sets out to protect existing users, but to allow these

Last week, we wrote about the FCC fining stations for a number of violations found at the studios of some broadcast stations.  In these same cases, the FCC also found a number of technical violations at the tower sites of some of the same stations.  Issues for which fines were issued included the failure to have an locked fence around an AM station’s tower, the failure of stations to be operating at the power for which they were authorized, and the failure to have a station’s Studio Transmitter Link operating on its licensed frequency.

An issue found in two case was the failure to operate at the power specified on the station’s license.  In one case, an AM station simply seemed to not be switching to its nighttime power – in other words, at sunset, it was not reducing power from the power authorized for its daytime operations.  The second case was one where another AM station was not switching to its nighttime antenna pattern after dark.  In that case, there were apparently issues with the nighttime antenna but, rather than request special temporary authority from the FCC to operate with reduced power until the problem was fixed, the FCC notes that the station apparently just kept operating with its daytime power.  An STA is not difficult to obtain when there is a technical issue (as the FCC does not want stations going dark if it can be avoided), and some effort is made to specify a power that avoids interference to other stations.  So, if faced with technical problems, request authority for operations that are different from those authorized by the station’s license until those problems can be fixed, or risk a fine from the Commission.

Continue Reading FCC Inspections – Transmission Site Fines for Overpower Operation, Unlocked Tower Fences, and Improper STL Operations

An FCC decision released today reminds broadcasters of the need to notify the FCC of the completion of construction of a new broadcast auxiliary stationStudio Transmitter Links (STL) and Remote Pickups (RPU) have for several years been licensed through the FCC’s Wireless Bureau, rather than through the Media Bureau.  Unlike a grant of authority

In two decisions (here and here) released last week, the FCC fined broadcasters $3200 and $2400 after inspections of the stations revealed that the licenses for their Studio Transmitter Link ("STL") did not list the proper location for these stations.  In both cases, it appeared that the stations had changed their studio