For the first time since October, we can say that the federal government is funded for the rest of the fiscal year (through the end of September) so we do not expect to have to report on any threats of a government shutdown for many months. With that worry off our plate, we can look at the dates that broadcasters do need to pay attention to in the month of April.

First, we’ll look at the most significant routine filing deadlines coming up in April.  April 1 is the deadline for radio and television station employment units in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas with five or more full-time employees to upload their Annual EEO Public File Report to their stations’ online public inspection files.  A station employment unit is a station or cluster of commonly controlled stations serving the same general geographic area having at least one common employee.  For employment units with five or more full-time employees, the annual report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for the prior year.  A link to the uploaded report must also be included on the home page of each station’s website, if the station has a website.  Be timely getting these reports into your public file, as even a single late report can lead to FCC fines (see our article here about a recent $26,000 fine for a single late EEO report).

The filing of the Annual EEO Public File Reports for radio station employment units in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee with eleven or more full-time employees triggers a Mid-Term EEO Review, where the FCC will analyze the last two Annual Reports for compliance with FCC requirements.  There is no form to file to initiate this review but, when radio stations located in those states with five or more full-time employees are required to upload to their public file their annual EEO Public File Report, they must also indicate in the online public file whether their employment unit has eleven or more full-time employees, using a checkbox now included in the public file’s EEO folder.  This allows the FCC to determine which station groups need a Mid-Term Review.  See our articles here and here on Mid-Term EEO Review reporting requirements for radio stations.Continue Reading April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Reports, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, LUC Windows, Rulemaking Comments, and More

The new year brings a series of noteworthy regulatory deadlines for broadcasters in January.  As always, broadcasters should consult with their own attorneys and advisors to make sure that they are aware of and ready to act on any other deadlines that are not listed below.

Congress still has not passed budget bills for the fiscal year that started on October 1, and some of the “continuing resolutions” to fund the federal government at last year’s levels run out on January 19, with the FCC’s budget set to expire on February 2.  Thus, at least a partial government shutdown may well occur if Congress fails to act this month.  As we previously discussed here and here, if a government shutdown does occur, some government agencies may have to cease all but critical functions if they do not have any residual funds to continue operations.  If no funding is approved, the FCC will announce how any shutdown will affect it, including whether it has any residual funds to keep operating beyond any general funding deadline.  Watch Congressional actions and any FCC announcements to see how any deadlines that apply to your station will be affected by the funding deadline.

With those concerns in mind, let’s look at some of the specific dates and deadlines for broadcasters in January.  Beginning January 1, television stations affiliated with the Top 4 Networks and operating in Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMAs) 91 through 100 will be added to the list of markets that are subject to the FCC’s audio description rules.  The DMAs where the rules become effective on January 1 are:  El Paso (Las Cruces), Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg, Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, Burlington-Plattsburgh, Baton Rouge, Jackson, MS, Fort-Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Boise, South Bend-Elkhart, and Myrtle Beach-Florence – in addition to Chattanooga and Charleston, SC, which were previously in DMAs 92 and 91, respectively, but are now in DMAs 84 and 88.  We reported here on the FCC’s recent reminder that these new markets will be subject to the audio description requirements as of January 1.  TV stations associated with the Top 4 networks in these markets are required to provide audio description for 50 hours of programming per calendar quarter, either during prime time or in children’s programming, and 37.5 additional hours of audio description per calendar quarter between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. local time, on each programming stream that carries one of the top four commercial television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC). Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Expansion of Audio Description Requirements, Music Royalty Cost of Living Increases, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, Childrens Television Programming Reporting, Political Windows, and More

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past two weeks, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC adopted a Report and Order establishing rules implementing the January 2023 Low Power Protection Act, which provides

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past two weeks, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

The FCC has released its Report and Order showing the annual regulatory fees due for the 2012 fiscal year. Although the due date has not yet been announced, it will likely be in September. The fees are intended to recover the Commission’s cost of operations, reported to be nearly $340 million. 

Fees must be paid by all commercial FCC licensees and permittees as of October 1, 2011 (the first day of the 2012 fiscal year).  In the event of an assignment or transfer of control after that date, fees are to be paid by the current permittees and licensees as of the payment due date in September.  Noncommercial stations and all nonprofit entities are exempt from paying regulatory fees.

Although a summary of fees is shown below, each licensee or permittee will have to check the FCC website to determine the exact amount of fees owed, since the FCC will not be mailing out any notices of fees due.  Fees paid even one day late will be subject to a 25% penalty plus administrative processing charges, so timely payment is critical.  Unlike the IRS which uses the mailing date to determine timeliness, the FCC requires regulatory fees to be received by the due date to avoid late payment penalties.  Licensees or permittees that fail to pay their regulatory fees in full will not be able to get FCC action on any subsequently filed applications pursuant to the Commission’s "red light" policy until all fees and penalties are paid.

Licensees and permittees will be able to pay by wire, credit card, check, money order or debit card, although all payers will need a an FCC Registration Number (FRN) and completed "Fee Filer Form" 159-E prior to filing.Continue Reading FCC Announces Regulatory Fees Due for FY 2012

The FCC has released 16 Show Cause Orders threatening to deprive a number of low power television (LPTV) stations of their Class A status for failure to file Children’s Television Programming Reports.  These orders appear to be implementing a long-rumored get-tough policy on Class A TV stations, as the FCC prepares to clear portions of the TV spectrum to auction it for use by wireless broadband providers, in accordance with the authorizing legislation we wrote about last week. Class A stations are protected from interference like full power TV stations, while other LPTV licensees can be displaced from their current channels by new primary users – potentially including future wireless broadband auction winners. Therefore, if these Class A stations are downgraded to LPTV status, the FCC could displace them as needed for spectrum auctions.  If they retain their Class A status, they are protected like full-power TV stations, and the FCC must attempt to replicate their coverage in any repacking of the spectrum that may occur.

These 16 Show Cause Orders all have essentially the same set of facts as this one.  Specifically, all of the stations failed to file multiple Children’s Television Programming Reports and failed to respond to FCC letters cautioning the stations that failure to file these reports could result in loss of Class A status.  As the FCC notes in all of the Show Cause Orders, Class A licensees are required to comply with many full power TV requirements, including the need to maintain a main studio and a public inspection file, to comply with children’s programming requirements, political programming requirements, station identification requirements and Emergency Alert System rules. Failure to comply with any of these requirements could result in loss of Class A status.Continue Reading Failure to File Children’s Programming Reports Could Cause Loss of Class A Status for LPTV Stations

Last week, the FCC issued fines to Class A TV stations which seem to have forgotten the requirements for such stations. Class A TV stations were low power television stations on which, early in the decade, Congress decided to confer "protected" status, meaning that they could not be knocked off the air by a new full-power TV station or by a change in the facilities of a full-power station.  LPTV stations, by contrast, are "secondary services," meaning that they can be knocked off the air by changes in primary stations.  Class A stations were given this protection if they could show that they were providing local programming, had a local studio, and otherwise complied with all the operating requirements that a full-power station station has to meet – including a manned main studio, children’s television obligations, EEO reporting, and public file requirements.  Cases released last week remind these stations that they must still meet all requirements for full power stations, as the FCC fined Class A stations for main studio, public file and children’s television violations.

In one case, the FCC fined a station $1000 for violations of the main studio, main studio staffing and public file rules.  The fine was originally set at $24,000 but, as the licensee demonstrated that it had no ability to pay the higher fine, the penalty was reduced to $1000.  The FCC had tried to inspect the station, and was unable to obtain access to the transmitter site.  The Commission staff then tried to find the station’s main studio, and found that no one answered the phone number listed for the station, there did not appear to be anyone at the address on file for the main studio location, and there was of course no access to the public file.  As Commission rules require that stations have main studios in their principal service areas that are manned during normal business hours, and that stations have their public file at this location, the fine was issued.Continue Reading Class A TV Stations Need to Remember They Are Subject to Full-Power Rules – Fines for Kids TV and Main Studio Violations

Yesterday, the FCC released its further Public Notice announcing that the freeze on filing certain Class A LPTV applications will be lifted on August 4th.  Previously, Class A stations had been frozen from expanding their authorized contours and from changing channels (displacing) while the DTV transition was underway.  Because Class A stations receive protection as