May is somewhat lighter on broadcast regulatory dates and deadlines than some recent months, but there are still dates to note.  Among other things, the FCC will begin the process of auctioning 140 construction permits for new AM and FM radio stations across the country.  Also, broadcasters in several states, with an eye on the June 1 deadline, should be preparing now to file applications for license renewal or to prepare and upload to their public inspection file EEO public file reports, demonstrating their compliance with the FCC’s equal employment opportunity requirements.  So let’s take a look at some of the important dates for May (and early June).  As always, be sure to consult with your communications counsel on the dates and deadlines applicable to your operation.

The Auction 109 window for “short-form” applications to participate in the auction of 136 FM construction permits and 4 AM construction permits began at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time on April 28 and will close at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time on May 11.  By that deadline, interested parties must file with the FCC their short-form applications (FCC Form 175) setting out information including their ownership and the channels on which they are interested in bidding.    The auction is scheduled to begin on July 27.  A freeze on the filing of FM minor modification applications remains in effect until the end of the auction filing window.  This freeze was imposed to ensure that Commission staff and auction bidders have a stable database to work with during the auction.  Read more about the auction and freeze, here and here.
Continue Reading May Regulatory Dates: Auction Applications for AM and FM Construction Permits for New Radio Stations, New DTS Rules, License Renewals and More

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.

  • At the FCC’s regular monthly Open Meeting, the Commissioners voted to adopt new rules mandating sponsorship identification of foreign government-provided

Earlier this week, we highlighted a letter sent last week from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo asking the FCC to review CALM Act complianceThe letter noted that the FCC has received thousands of complaints about loud commercials in the decade that the law has been in effect without having taken any enforcement action.  The FCC wasted no time in reacting, with Media Bureau issuing a request late Monday for comments on the current rules which implement the law and whether changes to those rules are needed.  Comments are due June 3, 2021, with reply comments due by July 9.

The CALM Act (the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act) was passed in 2011 due to the perception of many in Congress that the volume of commercials on broadcast, cable and satellite television was far higher than that in the programming that surrounded the commercials.  After the legislation was passed, the FCC adopted rules to implement the Act (which we described here).  Those rules were principally based on compliance with a set of ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) recommended practices, to be enforced through a complaint-driven system. The FCC has updated those rules once (when ATSC updated its recommended practices – see our article here).  The FCC now asks if those rules should be revisited to make them more effective in combatting the perceived problem of loud commercials.
Continue Reading FCC Being Anything but CALM About Congressional Letter – Asks for Public Comments on CALM Act Enforcement

As we highlighted yesterday in our weekly summary of regulatory issues for broadcasters, last week saw a letter from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo to the FCC asking for the FCC to review the enforcement of the rules established by the CALM Act, which prohibits loud commercials on TV stations.  The letter cites news reports of thousands of complaints annually to the FCC since the rule’s adoption in 2012 without there ever having been an enforcement action against a station for any violation.  When the CALM Act was passed by Congress, there were many industry questions about how that law could be enforced, as there are many subjective judgments in assessing whether a commercial is louder than the program into which it is inserted (see our article here).  But, ultimately, the FCC adopted rules that were based on industry standards and most parties seemed to believe that they were workable (see our article here about the adoption of those rules).  Like many FCC rules, the CALM Act rules are complaint-driven, and even the article cited by Congresswoman Eshoo recognized the difficulty in assessing the merits of any complaint.

Nevertheless, with this letter and the publicity that it has received in the broadcast trade press, TV stations should carefully review their compliance with the CALM Act rules, as this publicity could signal that the FCC will turn its attention to this issue in the coming months.  In fact, with a Commission that is currently evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans until the vacant seat on the Commission is filled, enforcement of existing FCC rules may well be one place where the current Commission will turn its attention while more controversial (and potentially partisan) rule changes await FCC action.
Continue Reading Congressional Letter to FCC on CALM Act Violations Puts Focus on FCC Enforcement Issues

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.

  • According to press reports, broadcasters should pencil in August 11, 2021 on their calendars for the next national test of

June brings some standard obligations for broadcasters in a number of states with anniversaries of their license renewal filing, plus the return of an obligation that we have not seen in 4 years- the obligations of radio stations in certain states to file an FCC Form 397 Mid-Term EEO Report. In addition to these routine regulatory deadlines, comment dates on certain FCC proceedings, a new CALM Act deadline, and some decisions for which broadcasters should be watching are among the regulatory actions that we can expect this coming month.

First, let’s look at the standard recurring obligations. By June 1, Annual EEO Public Inspection File Reports need to be placed in the public inspection files (including the online files of TV stations) of stations that are part of a station employment unit with five or more full-time (30 hours per week) employees that are licensed to communities in these states: Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.  As we wrote in more detail yesterday, June 1 also brings the obligation of radio stations that are part of employment units with 11 or more full-time employees, and are located in Maryland, DC, Virginia or West Virginia to file their Form 397, EEO Mid-Term Report. Every other month for the next four years we will see a similar obligation arise for a group of radio or TV stations in states that have celebrated the 4th anniversary of the filing of their license renewal applications.
Continue Reading June Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Public File Reports and Form 397, CALM Act Compliance Obligations, Incentive Auction Actions, Comments on Reg Fees and LPFM Rules, and More

In the last few weeks, while I was on vacation and otherwise occupied, there have been many big developments in the broadcasting and music industries that I’ll try to write about separately – including the release of the FCC’s Order setting up the first official outline of the television incentive auction process and the Department of Justice beginning an examination of the antitrust consent decrees that govern ASCAP and BMI.  But a couple of quick FCC decisions bear mentioning here.

First, the FCC announced a change in the CALM Act, regulating loud commercials.  We wrote about the FCC’s order implementing the Act, here.  One of the FCC’s decisions in implementing the Act was that stations could comply with its provisions by meeting the standards set out in A/85 Recommended Practice, a standard adopted by the ATSC (the Advanced Television Standards Committee).  The FCC noted that such standards would be revised from time to time.  That standard has now been revised by ATSC, and stations, to remain in compliance with this safe harbor for compliance under the CALM Act, are expected to comply with the revised standard by June 4, 2015.
Continue Reading Odds and Ends – CALM Act Revisions, New Effective Date for Higher FCC Application Fees, and a Case Exploring the Reach of the FCC Character Policies

While we were sidetracked by the government shutdown in posting reminders about regulatory deadlines for broadcasters during the last two months, it’s about time to put that behind us, and to resume our monthly practice. While everyone may be looking forward to the holidays, they need to remember that December does bring a number of regulatory obligations for broadcasters across the country.  For instance, license renewals are due on December 2 (as the 1st is a Sunday) for the following station groups: Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations, TV Translators, and LPTV Stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota; Commercial and Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations, FM Translators, and LPFM Stations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Radio and television stations in all of those states, plus those in Alabama and Georgia, that have 5 or more full-time employees in their station employment groups, also have the obligation to complete their Annual EEO Public Inspection File Report, and to place that report into their public file (for TV stations, that would be their online pubic file).  The deadline for those reports to be complete and posted is December 1.  Radio stations in these states also need to post the most recent report on their websites, if they have a website. 
Continue Reading December Regulatory Deadlines For Broadcasters – Renewals, Ownership Reports, CALM Act, and TV Form 317

There have been many Washington developments for broadcasters in the last week – and while it was all occurring, our Blog was undergoing a makeover, so some of the articles that we published in the last week may have been missed.  Perhaps the biggest news was the confirmation and swearing in of the new FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler.  Last week, we wrote this article setting out the many legal issues of relevance to broadcasters that will be facing the new Chair.  Among the first issues that will be dealt with is the modification of the FCC’s limits on the foreign ownership of broadcast stations, which is scheduled for consideration by the FCC at their open meeting next Thursday.  We wrote about the issues in that proceeding here.

One of the last issues considered by Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn was the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the revitalization of the AM radio band.  We summarized the issues set out in that proceeding, and wrote in more detail about the proposal likely to have the biggest impact on AM broadcasters – a window for AM stations to seek FM translators.  That article also discussed how the FCC has seemingly decided to pull back from Mattoon waivers as part of that proceeding, and in a separate decision where the FCC decided that Mattoon waivers could not be used if the primary station is an FM.  We’ll write more about the rest of the AM revitalization proposals soon.  And, related to translators, we wrote about the extension of the last day for filing applications in the LPFM filing window to next week. 

As last week was Halloween, and also the 75th Anniversary of the broadcast of Orson Welles War of the Worlds, we wrote about the changing views on broadcast hoaxes, and what the FCC would do if the program was broadcast today.  Speaking of emergency broadcasts, the FCC yesterday issued a number of notices on fake emergency broadcasts.  We’ll write more about that issue shortly.
Continue Reading While Our Blog Was Getting A Makeover, Did You See Our Stories on the New FCC Chairman, Foreign Ownership of Broadcast Stations, AM Revitalization, Orson Welles and the Hoax Rule and More?

The CALM Act, meant to end the dreaded "loud commercial," is set to go into effect tomorrow, December 13. We summarized the requirements for compliance with the Act here. Basically, TV stations must adopt certain practices set out in a series of standards known as A/85 Recommended Practice, adopted by the ATSC (the Advanced Television Standards Committee). As we advised stations, the rules initially required any station needing more time was supposed to ask for a waiver of the rules by October 12. In an Order released on Tuesday, the FCC granted two waivers, and also decided that any other station needing more time could request a waiver as late as the compliance deadline date.

In the order, the Commission granted two waiver requests – one for just a month and a half as the cable system simply had a misunderstanding of what they needed to do to achieve compliance, and the second until the end of May because a TV station was in the middle of a studio move, and promised to install the new compliant equipment at the new studio. The Commission also reminded stations that there are two kinds of waivers available – automatic waivers, upon request, for small stations (those with under $14 million in annual revenue or in a TV market from number 150 to market 210) and small cable systems; and other waivers for stations facing specific problems, including financial hardships. Those who do not qualify as small stations would need to demonstrate the specific hardship justifying the waiver. So any stations or systems seeking a waiver have a last chance to do so, by Thursday.


Continue Reading Compliance Deadline for CALM Act December 13 – FCC Allows Waiver Filings Until that Deadline