The FCC yesterday released two public notices about the procedures to be used in the upcoming radio license renewal cycle. These actions were previewed by the FCC at the NAB Convention last week (see our article here). As we wrote here and here, the license renewal cycle begins with the filing of license renewal applications by stations in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia that must be submitted by June 3 (as the June 1 deadline falls on a weekend, the deadline is extended to the next business day). Stations in these states should already be running their Pre-Filing Announcements on the 1st and 16th of the 2 months preceding the renewal filing (see our articles here and here).

The first of yesterday’s notices announces that the renewals will be filed in the FCC’s LMS database which was first used by radio broadcasters in connection with the filing of their last set of Biennial Ownership Reports. In addition to the license renewal form (now FCC Form 2100, Schedule 303-S), broadcasters will also have to submit a Broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity Program Report (LMS Form 2100, Schedule 396). The Public Notice says that the forms will be available by May 1. It also notes that, over time, other radio forms will migrate to the LMS database as the FCC leaves behind CDBS, the database that it has used for broadcasting for well over a decade.
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The FCC on Friday issued a Public Notice reminding radio stations that the license renewal cycle begins in June, when all stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia are due to electronically file their license renewal applications, along with the Broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity Report on Form 396 (the 396 being required of all full-power stations, even those with fewer than 5 full-time employees). It is still unclear whether these applications will be filed using the current electronic database for radio (called CDBS), or whether the FCC will require radio stations to use the new electronic database that TV stations have been using for several years now (called LMS).

The renewal filing obligation applies to LPFMs and FM translator stations, as well as full-power stations. As we have written many times in recent months (for example here and here), after the June filing deadline for these Mid-Atlantic states, the renewal cycle moves south – with stations in the Carolinas filing by August 1. Every other month for the next 3 years, radio stations in other states will file their renewal applications. The order in which stations file is available on the FCC’s website, here. The TV renewal cycle starts one year later, beginning in June 2020.
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With the kick-off of the FCC’s broadcast license renewal cycle comes some additional obligations for licensees, this time in the form of an FCC Form 396 Broadcast EEO Report.  The Form 396 is filed only at renewal time and serves to: 1.) confirm the licensee’s commitment to EEO, 2.) provide a narrative statement about how the station

In less than a month, a four year cycle of radio and television license renewal applications begins with the filing, on or before June 1, of license renewals by radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.  To help stations prepare for their upcoming renewals, I conducted a webinar, sponsored by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters and joined by broadcasters from 9 other state associations, discussing issues that broadcasters should be considering.   Slides from that presentation, setting out the renewal process, and various issues that should be considered by broadcasters, including: public file issues, technical matters, EEO and other nondiscrimination matters.  Copies of the slides used in the presentation are available here.

In addition to those slides, we have many other resources available for a broadcaster thinking about their license renewal application.  These include the following:

  • A primer on the issues to be considered in preparing for license renewal, available here.  In that memo, there are links to the texts of the required pre-filing and post-filing announcements that broadcasters must air to inform their listeners about the filing of the renewal application
  • A memo that sets out the materials that should be kept in a commercial station’s public file, and the retention period for those materials, here.
  • A memo generally describing the requirements of the FCC’s EEO rules, here, and a second memo, reminding broadcasters of their yearly EEO public file report obligations, a sample of which is here.  Remember, FCC Form 396 report must be filed with the license renewal application, and that form requires the submission of the station’s last two years public inspection file reports
  • An advisory, here, summarizing the requirements for a station’s quarterly programs issues lists.
  • Recent blog entries on the FCC’s requirement for a nondiscrimination certification in their advertising contracts, here and here.

FCC Sources of information for the renewal filing are also available.  A version of the FCC Form 303S – the license renewal form – can be viewed here.  The form contains a good set of instructions as to what information the FCC is seeking from licensees.  The FCC also has its own webpage on license renewal, here.  Dates for radio license renewals are available here, and the dates for TV renewals are here.


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