FCC applications in the event of government shutdown

We typically publish our article about upcoming regulatory dates before the beginning of each month, but this month, the looming FCC shutdown and determining its effect on filing deadlines pushed back our schedule. As we wrote on Friday, the effect of the shutdown is now becoming clear – and it has the potential to put on hold a number of the FCC deadlines, including the filing of Quarterly Children’s Television Reports due on January 10 and the uploading of Quarterly Issues Programs lists, due to be added to station’s public inspection files on January 10. The FCC-hosted public inspection file database is offline, so those Quarterly Issues Programs lists can’t be uploaded unless the budget impasse is resolved this week. Certifications as to the compliance of TV stations with the commercial limits in children’s television programs would also be added to the public file by January 10 – if it is available for use by then. While these and other dates mentioned below may be put on hold, there are deadlines that broadcasters need to pay attention to that are unaffected by the Washington budget debate.

We note that the FCC’s CDBS and LMS databases are up and operating, though most filings will be considered to be submitted the day that the FCC reopens. As the databases are up and operating, many applications can be electronically filed – so TV stations might as well timely upload their Children’s Television Reports on schedule by January 10, to avoid any slow uploading that may result from overloading of the FCC’s system as the FCC reopens. Other FCC deadlines are unaffected by the shutdown – most notably, as we wrote on Friday, those that related to the repacking of the TV band following the TV incentive auction. The FCC has money to keep its auction activities operating so staff are working to keep the repacking on track. Deadlines coming up for the repacking include a January 10th deadline for stations affected by the repacking to file their Form 387 Transition Progress Report. Auction deadlines proceed whether or not the FCC is otherwise open for business.
Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – The Shutdown Does Not Put Everything on Hold

Do you have a deal to buy a new station or a planned technical modification that needs FCC approval? Well, it looks like those plans may have to wait as the budget controversy in Washington has shut down the FCC. But what does the shut-down really mean for broadcasters? The FCC clarified some of the questions broadcasters have in a Public Notice released Wednesday.

Most applications will not be processed, though the FCC has made clear that it will have FCC staff members available to deal with issues related to the TV spectrum repacking that was caused by the incentive auction. So for those stations needing FCC approvals for actions relating to the repacking of the TV band, the FCC will be functioning. Unlike in past shutdowns (see, for instance, our article here), the FCC website will remain up and generally will be operating, and the CDBS and LMS databases used for most broadcast applications will continue to function (though without any sort of tech support if an applicant has problems). Certain other databases relevant to some aspects of broadcast operations (like the public complaint filing system, the International Bureau’s database used for filing earth station applications, and the tower registration database) will not be available. Perhaps most surprisingly, as the FCC does not specifically mention it in the Public Notice, the FCC has shuttered its Online Public Inspection File database for broadcasters. With that database not working, public file updates (including the Quarterly Issues Programs lists that are due to be added to the files by January 10, cannot be uploaded unless the government reopens. Note that, in the FCC’s orders adopting the online public inspection file obligations, stations are supposed to be able to provide access to their political files when the FCC system is offline (see our article here). While no access to the rest of the file is required, stations are supposed to be able to provide access to back-ups of the political file. Luckily, with few elections taking place at the moment, this should not generally be a widespread issue, but it could obviously become an issue should the shutdown persist.
Continue Reading FCC Shuts Down Because of Government Funding Impasse – What Does It Mean for Broadcasters?

The deadline for filing applications in the LPFM window has been extended as a result of the Federal government shutdown – with the new filing deadline being November 14 at 6 PM Eastern Time.  The FCC filing system is open now, so parties can go ahead prepare and actually submit their applications now. But as, during the shutdown, the FCC’s system was not available for research or application preparation, and as the FCC staff was not available to answer questions, the Commission gave applicants additional time in which to submit their applications.

During the shutdown, the FCC had been scheduled to have a webinar to further explain the application process and to answer questions about the rules applicable to LPFM.  Obviously, the shutdown prevented that from happening, so the FCC has now rescheduled the seminar for October 24 at 1 PM.  The webinar can be accessed here


Continue Reading FCC Extends LPFM Filing Window, New Dates for LPFM Webinar and Changes in LPFM Protections to FM Translator Inputs

The FCC issued further guidance on FCC filing deadlines for regulatory submissions that were due during the 16 day Federal shutdown. The FCC has essentially given most applicants and filers a 16 day extension of time to file anything that was due during the shutdown. They note, however, that there are certain deadlines that they cannot

The Federal government shutdown that we speculated about last week has now come to pass, and the clearest evidence is that, when you go to the FCC website, you are greeted by a special message essentially saying that the website is not available until after the shutdown ends. So, as we speculated last week, broadcast (and most other) applicants can’t even begin to prepare applications for filing when the government reopens, as the Commission’s CDBS database (as well as there other systems for filing electronic applications) is not available. Nor can you even access information about pending applications, pleadings that have been filed, or any of the other detailed information that is available on the FCC’s usually informative website. You’ll even note that links to FCC actions contained in many of the posts on this blog will not work, as the documents to which they link are resident on the FCC website. Similar notices are on most other government agency sites like, for instance, the Copyright Office site.

What is a broadcaster to do when they have an application or other deadline that falls during shutdown period? Stations sales will no doubt be closed, stations will be constructed with license applications due to be filed, there are license renewals that were due yesterday for radio stations in the Pacific northwest, Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific territories, and other pleadings and filings that are either now due, or will become due if the shutdown persists. One of the few documents that is available on the FCC’s site is a Public Notice on the Procedure for Filing in the Event of a Lapse in Funding, which provides a minimal amount of information about what is next. Beyond saying that the FCC is essentially closed, the notice does say that filings due during the shutdown would be due the day after the FCC returns to normal operations. The notice gives the example that, if funding is restored on a Monday, the FCC would return to normal operations on Tuesday, and filings due during the interim would be due on Wednesday. The Notice also states that, if there are issues restarting the electronic filing databases after the government reopens, further public notices will be issued, which presumably could further extend filing deadlines.


Continue Reading Now that the FCC Has Shut Down – What’s a Broadcaster to do?

The buzz in Washington this week is about whether the FCC and the rest of the Federal government will be open come next Tuesday, October 1. October 1 is the start of the FCC’s fiscal year, and without a “continuing resolution” (Congressional authorization to keep the government running at current levels even without a formal budget), there will be no authorized funds to run the government, and there will effectively be a shut-down of all but “essential” government services. Even if Tuesday’s deadline is averted, the government faces another potential shut-down of some of its functions in the middle of the month (apparently by October 17) unless there is a vote to raise the Federal debt ceiling. As attempts to repeal the new health care law are being tied to the legislation necessary to fund the government, many think that there is a real possibility that we will see a shut-down for the first time in almost twenty years in October. What would such a shutdown mean for broadcasters?

While the FCC has not yet issued a plan for a shutdown, such plans are beginning to be seen at other government agencies. So, while we don’t know for sure what the FCC’s plans would look like yet, we can look at the plan issued in 2011, when the government last came within hours of a shutdown. We wrote about that situation here. Basically, most all of the FCC’s workforce would need to go home, and could not perform any functions while the government is closed. Thus, there will be no construction permits issued for new or improved stations, and no grants of other pending applications – including assignments and transfers – meaning that sales of stations would be in limbo for however long the shutdown lasts. FCC officials could not travel, so they could not attend any broadcaster conventions or other meetings that may have been planned. And, in most other shut-downs (or in shutdown planning), the Commission’s staff was not even allowed to voluntarily do anything related to their official business – so they could not answer emails or phone calls from home, or travel on their own dime to anything related to their official functions.


Continue Reading What a Federal Government Shut-Down Would Mean for Broadcasters

[Update – 4/9/2011.  Based on the announcement late last night, the Federal government will not be closing on Monday.  But the agreement that was reached yesterday still needs to be documented and voted on by the House and Senate.  But, barring an unforeseen breakdown in the deal, these shutdown instructions can be shelved