On Friday, the FCC announced a consent decree for violations of the requirements that TV stations provide at least three weekly hours of CORE programming addressing the educational and informational needs of children. The operator of eight TV and Class A TV stations in the southeast US agreed to make a $90,000 “voluntary contribution” to the Federal government and to adopt new practices to insure future compliance with the CORE programming requirements. The FCC had held up the license renewals of many of its stations as the licensee had claimed reruns of one-time programs as fulfilling the CORE requirements. As explained in the FCC’s Order, the FCC does not consider such programming to meet the requirements of the children’s television rules.

Under the rules, the FCC has the following requirements for CORE programming meeting the educational and informational (“E/I” in the language used by the FCC) needs of children:

(1) serving the E/I needs of children ages 16 and under is a significant purpose of the programming;

(2) the program is to be aired between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.;

(3) the program is a regularly-scheduled weekly program;

(4) the program must be at least 30 minutes in length;

(5) the program is identified as being specifically designed to educate and inform children through the on-screen display of the E/I symbol throughout the program;

(6) the educational objective and the target child audience are specified in writing in the licensee’s Children’s Television Programming Report; and

(7) the licensee must provide instructions for listing the program as E/I, including an indication of the age group for which the program is intended, to publishers of TV program guides.

In this case, the licensee was deemed to have violated criteria number 3 above – as its programming was not “regularly scheduled.”
Continue Reading $90,000 Payment to FCC by TV Owner for Claiming Reruns of One-Time Programs as Meeting “CORE” Children’s Educational and Informational Programming Requirement

Another month is upon us, with the typical list of FCC dates of importance – and some new issues (including incentive auction developments that will probably be a regular part of our news through a good part of next year). One date of importance to some TV broadcasters was yesterday – July 1 – when TV stations affiliated with one of the Big Four TV networks and located in the Top 60 TV markets need to be carrying at least 50 hours of prime time or children’s programming each quarter containing video description. While most of this programming will come from the networks themselves, affiliates in these markets should be now be passing through enough of this video-described programming to meet the quarterly minimums.

July 10 brings other routine filing deadlines. For all broadcasters, by July 10 you should have in your public file (the online public file for TV stations) your Quarterly Issues Programs lists describing the most important issues that faced your community in the prior quarter and the programming that you broadcast to address those issues. Also due to be filed at the FCC by July 10 is your station’s Children’s Television Programming Report on Form 398 describing the programming broadcast on your station to serve the educational and informational needs of children. In addition, TV stations need to place in their online public file information showing compliance with the commercial limits in children’s programming and, for Class A stations, documentation showing continued eligibility for Class A status. For other dates of importance to broadcasters, see our Broadcaster Regulatory Calendar, here.
Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and Children’s Television Reports, Incentive Auction Actions, CRB Webcasting Closing Argument and More

In a decision just released by the FCC, a TV station was admonished for including, in the credits of a TV program, the URL for a website that contained commercial material. As this was deemed by the FCC to be an isolated occurrence, the station was only admonished, not fined for the violation. But the decision is a good reminder for TV stations of the advertising and marketing restrictions that apply to children’s television programs and to links to websites contained in such programs.

The FCC’s rules prohibit a station from including a website’s address in programming directed to children 12 and under unless it meets a 4 part test. The four parts of that test are as follows:

  1. the website offers a substantial amount of bona fide program related or other noncommercial content;
  2. the website is not primarily intended for commercial purposes, including either e-commerce or advertising;
  3. the website’s home page and other menu pages are clearly labeled to distinguish the noncommercial from the commercial sections; and
  4. the page of the website to which viewers are directed by the website address is not used for e-commerce, advertising, or other commercial purposes (e.g., contains no links labeled “store” and no links to another page with commercial material)

In this case, the website had commercial content, leading to the admonition to the station. The URL was apparently visible for less than a second, in the credits, and ran only once. As this was an isolated instance, the station was not monetarily penalized, but the FCC did make clear that this was a rule violation.
Continue Reading FCC Admonishes TV Station for Including Commercial Website Address in Children’s Program – A Good Reminder on Children’s Television Program Restrictions

April is one of those months with many routine FCC obligations. Quarterly Issues Programs lists need to be in your public file by the 10th of the month. This is an obligation for all full-power broadcast stations – commercial or noncommercial. Similarly, all TV stations have an obligation to submit their Children’s Television Reports on FCC Form 398 demonstrating compliance with the obligations to provide educational and informational programming directed to children, and at the same time put into their public files documents showing their compliance with the limitations on commercials within programming directed to children.

EEO public file reports are due for stations that are part of an employment unit with 5 or more full-time (30 or more hours per week) employees which is located in any of the following states: Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. Noncommercial TV stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee; and noncommercial radio stations in Texas, need to file their Biennial Ownership Reports with the FCC on April 1. Finally, license renewal applications in the last license renewal window for this license renewal cycle are due to be filed on April 1 by TV stations (and TV translators and LPTV stations) in Delaware and Pennsylvania. The next regularly scheduled license renewal will be filed by radio stations in certain states – but not until June 2019!
Continue Reading April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Including Quarterly Issues Programs and Children’s Television Reports; Comments In Proceedings Including One on Digital Auxiliaries; and More Incentive Auction Seminars

With the obligation of television stations to file the quarterly Children’s Television Reports on FCC Form 398 by Monday (as the usual January 10 date is on a weekend) and the simultaneous requirement to place into their online public file documentation of compliance with the commercial limits in Children’s programming, it is worth reminding stations of the seriousness with which the FCC continues to view its children’s television rules.  There have been a number of fines and enforcement actions against TV stations in recent weeks, highlighting the need for stations to be vigilant about compliance with all aspects of the children’s television rules.  While the license renewal cycle, during which most of these issues come to light, is coming to an end in 2015 and stations that have already been renewed won’t face renewal scrutiny for at least another 5 years, issues that arise even this far out from the renewal window can haunt the station at the next renewal.  Moreover, with the public inspection files of stations now online, the FCC or other interested parties can view station’s compliance with these obligations at anytime from anywhere, and can easily file FCC complaints.  So TV stations cannot let down their guard simply because their license renewal has been granted.

In the past week, we saw one interesting case, where the FCC proposed to fine a station $3000 for failing to include the “E/I” symbol in the educational and informational programming directed to children on two of its multicast channels.  The FCC rejected arguments by the licensee that the programming on those channels was in Korean, and thus the E/I symbol would not make sense to the Korean viewers of the programing.  The Commission reasoned that, if the station wanted an exemption to the rules, where it could identify the programming as educational and informational in Korean text, the station should have asked for a waiver of the rules. 
Continue Reading Remember Children’s Television Compliance Obligations – The FCC Does Not Forget

A new year, and a new set of regulatory obligations and deadlines for broadcasters and others.  To help track many of the important deadlines for broadcasters in the new year, we have put together a Broadcaster’s Calendar of important regulatory dates for 2015, available here, which highlights many of the dates for the regulatory obligations of broadcasters in 2015.  While not exhaustive, and subject to change, the calendar sets out the regular regulatory dates for broadcasters (e.g. Quarterly Issues Programs lists, Children’s Television Reports, EEO public inspection file reports, reg fee obligations, etc.).  It also highlights dates that don’t necessarily occur every year – like this year’s obligation for commercial broadcasters to file Biennial Ownership Reports.  While the license renewal cycle for TV concludes this year, Mid-Term EEO report obligations (FCC Form 397) for radio stations in the states that were the first to file their renewals in the last radio license renewal cycle (those in the DC area and in the southeast) kick in mid-year for radio employment units with more than 10 full-time employees.  The calendar also lists January dates for webcasters to file various elections (including elections to be treated as a “small broadcaster” which, for broadcasters who stream their stations online but have a very small audience, can lessen payment and reporting obligations).  There are even a few lowest unit rate windows listed for states that have announced state and local elections (and are many other states holding such elections that we were not able to determine dates – so check those locally.

Some of the important January regulatory dates include the obligation of all broadcasters, by the 10th of the month, to have their Quarterly Issues Programs lists in their public file.  TV stations should also place their certifications as to compliance with children’s television commercial limits in their files by that date.  By the 12th (as the 10th is a weekend day), television stations must also submit to the FCC their Form 398 Children’s Television Programming Reports that report on educational and informational programming directed to children. 
Continue Reading A Broadcaster’s Regulatory Calendar for 2015, Plus Important Regulatory Deadlines for January Including Incentive Auction and Captioning Comments

July brings a number of new regulatory dates for broadcasters – including the effective dates of two new compliance obligations for small market TV stations, as well as numerous routine regulatory filing dates.  July 10 brings one deadline for all broadcast stations – it is the date by which your Quarterly Issues Programs lists, setting out the most important issues that faced your community in the last quarter and the programs that you broadcast to address those issues, need to be placed in the physical public inspection file of radio stations, and the online public file of TV broadcasters.

Full power TV and Class A TV stations by January 10 also need to have filed with the FCC their FCC Form 398 Children’s Television Reports, addressing the educational and informational programming directed to children that they broadcast.  Also, by that same date, they need to upload to their online public files records showing compliance with the limits on commercials during programming directed to children.  And there are other new obligations for smaller TV stations that are effective this month.
Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – New Captioning Obligations, Online Political File for Small TV Stations, Issues Programs List and Children’s Television Reports, and More

The end of September marks the close of the Third Quarter of 2011, which brings two quarterly filing obligations for broadcast stations.  The first obligation is that by October 10 all radio and television stations, both commercial and noncommercial, must prepare and place in their public inspection file Quarterly Issues Programs Lists reporting on the important

The FCC today issued a Forfeiture Order imposing a $30,000 fine on the licensee of three television stations for the stations’ failure to publicize the existence and location of the Children’s Television Reports for the Stations.  Even at a rate of $10,000 per station, this fine is significant and should serve as a loud, clear