Though school is out for many, the FCC does not take a summer recess.  Instead, regulation continues.  In addition to the regular EEO Annual Public Inspection File Report deadline for broadcasters in a number of states, there are several comment deadlines in June on issues that directly impact broadcasters – as well as the FCC’s regular monthly Open Meeting when it will consider a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that, if adopted, would make significant revisions to its rules for Class A, LPTV, and TV translator stations.  And, as this is an election year, there are several political deadlines this June that broadcasters must be aware of. 

June 3 (as the 1st is on a weekend) is the deadline for radio and television station employment units in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming with five or more full-time employees to upload their Annual EEO Public File Report to their stations’ online public inspection files (OPIFs).  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 and television station employment units with eleven or more full-time employees triggers a Mid-Term EEO Review that analyzes the last two Annual Reports for compliance with FCC requirements.  June 1 is the beginning of the Mid-Term EEO Review for radio station employment units in Michigan and Ohio andfor television station employment units in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Additionally, radio stations located in those states that are part of station employment units with five or more full-time employees must indicate in their OPIFs, when they post their Annual Report, whether their employment unit has eleven or more full-time employees, using a checkbox now included in the OPIF’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 June Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Public File Reports, Rulemaking Comments, Political Deadlines, and More

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 FCC last week released its first EEO audit notice for 2024.  The FCC’s Public Notice, audit letter, and the list of stations selected for audit is available here.  Those stations, and the station employment units (commonly owned or controlled stations serving the same area sharing at least one employee) with which they are associated, must provide to the FCC (by uploading the information to their online public inspection file) their last two years of EEO Annual Public File reports, as well as backing data to show that the station in fact did everything that was required under the FCC rules.  The response to this audit is due to be uploaded to the public file of affected stations by May 6, 2024. The audit notice says that stations audited in 2022 or 2023, or whose license renewals were filed after February 1, 2022, can ask the FCC for further instructions, possibly exempting them from the audit because of the recent FCC review of their performance. 

With the release of this audit, and last year’s $25,000 fine proposed for some Kansas radio stations that had not fully met their EEO obligations (see our article here), it is important to review your EEO compliance even if your stations are not subject to this audit.  The FCC has promised to randomly audit approximately 5% of all broadcast stations each year. As the response (and the audit letter itself) must be uploaded to the public file, it can be reviewed not only by the FCC, but also by anyone else with an internet connection anywhere, at any time.  The Kansas fine, plus a recent $26,000 fine imposed on Cumulus Media for a late upload of a single EEO Annual Public File Report (see our article here), and the FCC’s recent decision to bring back EEO Form 395 reporting on the race and gender of all station employees (see our article here), shows how seriously the FCC takes EEO obligations.Continue Reading FCC Issues First EEO Audit Notice for 2024 – 250 Radio and TV Stations To Have Employment Activities for the Last Two Years Reviewed

President Biden’s signing of the Continuing Resolution last week (see our discussion here) has kept the federal government open, with the FCC and FTC having money to stay open through March 8.  So the FCC will be open and thus there are February regulatory dates to which broadcasters should be paying attention. 

February 1 is the deadline for radio and television station employment units in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma with five or more full-time employees to upload their Annual EEO Public File Report to their stations’ online public inspection files (OPIFs).  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).Continue Reading February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Annual EEO Public File Reports, C-Band Transition Reimbursement, Political Windows, and More

July is relatively light on broadcast regulatory dates, but the Quarterly Issues/Programs List deadline on July 10 is one that applies to all full-power broadcasters and Class A TV stations.  As set forth below, there are a few other dates worth noting this coming month – with more to come in August.

July 10 is the deadline by which all full-power television, full-power radio and Class A television stations must upload to their online public inspection files their Quarterly Issues/Program Lists for the second quarter of 2023.  The lists should identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station aired in April, May and June that addressed those issues.  As you finalize your lists, do so carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community.  See our article here for more on the importance of the Quarterly Issues/Programs list obligation.

July 10 is also the deadline by which noncommercial educational stations must upload to their public inspection files documentation of any on-air fundraising benefitting third parties that interrupted their normal programming from April 1 through June 30, 2023.  This obligation applies to noncommercial educational stations not affiliated with NPR or PBS that conducted such third-party on-air fundraising.  For more information about this requirement, see our article here.  Also on July 10, Class A television stations should upload to their online public file documentation of their continuing eligibility for Class A status during the period from April 1 through June 30, 2023.

Chairwoman Rosenworcel announced that the FCC, at its open meeting on July 20, intends to announce its decision resolving whether it will continue to allow “Franken FM” or “FM6 stations,” (i.e., LPTV stations operating on TV channel 6 with an analog audio service that can be received on FM radios at 87.7 MHz) to provide their existing analog radio service by authorizing it as an “ancillary or supplementary service.”  LPTV operators had asked the FCC to bless the post-conversion operation of an analog audio signal embedded in the digital Channel 6 LPTV station transmissions so that these FM broadcasts can continue, which the FCC has tentatively decided to do with respect to 13 LPTV stations that had provided such service in the past.  For more details on this item, see our blog article here

July 31 is the deadline by which commercial television stations with locally-produced programming whose signals were carried as distant signals by at least one cable or satellite system in 2022 may file royalty claims for compensation with the Copyright Office in Washington, DC.  Cable and satellite systems are obligated to pay these royalties pursuant to their compulsory copyright license to carry distant TV signals on their systems. Stations that do not file claims by the July 31 deadline will not be able to collect royalties for distant carriage of their signals during 2022.  The filing process consists of two-steps: (1) if you did not do so last year, you must register through the Copyright Royalty Boards’s eCRB system and then (2) file your claim electronically through eCRB by July 31, 2023.  

The Commission recently issued a Public Notice announcing that it is taking comments on a Petition for Rulemaking filed by REC Networks in which REC proposes rules to govern a possible future FM translator filing window.  Among REC’s proposals are a limit on applications by any one applicant and limits on the sale of any construction permits that are granted in any new filing window.  Comments on the REC Petition are due on July 26, 2023 and will give the FCC the opportunity to decide whether to further advance these proposals through a formal rulemaking process. 

The FCC has published its All-In Pricing for Cable and Satellite Television Service Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).  Comments are due July 31, and replies are due August 29.  The NPRM proposes to require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to specify the “all-in” price for video service in their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills.  Cable operators and DBS providers would be able to complement the aggregate line item with an itemized explanation of the elements that compose that single line item. 

Looking forward to early August, August 1 is the deadline for Radio and Television Station Employment Units in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin with 5 or more full-time employees to upload to their online public inspection file their Annual EEO Public File Report. 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 5 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 a station’s website, if it has a website. 

For those radio employment units in North Carolina and South Carolina, the Annual EEO Public File Report brings a new requirement, as this is the mid-point of those stations’ renewal term.  As we wrote here, this means that the FCC will conduct its EEO Mid-Term Review of those radio employment units with 11 or more full-time employees.  When radio stations in these states upload their Annual EEO Public File Reports, they must also check a new checkbox in the Settings section of the FCC-hosted public inspection file stating whether or not they have 11 or more full-time employees in their employment unit, so the FCC knows which clusters to review as part of the Mid-Term Review.  All other radio groups will need to complete this step as well prior to their Mid-Term Review.

As always, this list of dates is not exhaustive.  Note, too, that deadlines can change.  Always review these dates with your legal and technical advisors, and note other dates not listed here that may be relevant to your operations. Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, Franken FMs, Copyright Distant Signal Copyright Claims, and More

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

  • The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau released a Public Notice announcing that EEO Mid-Term Reviews for radio and television stations will start