On Friday the Commission released a further Order confirming certain recent changes to its ownership reporting requirements for commercial broadcast stations and soliciting additional input on the reporting of certain non-attributable interest holders.  Earlier this year, the Commission revised its rules regarding the reporting of ownership interests by commercial broadcasters.  The FCC also recast its FCC

The FCC today announced the opening of a filing window for noncommercial applicants interested in seeking authority for 67 existing vacant FM allotments.  Applications on FCC Form 340 will be accepted from December 11th through December 18th for these vacant FM allotments in the non-reserved band between Channels 221 and 300.  A full listing of the allotments that

The FCC’s auction of 122 FM radio licenses came to a close last week with nearly a third of the licenses — 37 to be precise — remaining unsold at the closing hammer.  The outcome of the auction, which raised a net total of just $5.25 million on the sale of 85 licenses, may be

With today’s Federal Register publication of the FCC’s recent Order amending the rules governing FM Translator stations, the date is officially set at October 1st for when AM stations can begin to rebroadcast their signals on FM translators.   Beginning October 1st, the long-standing prohibition on rebroadcasting AM radio on FM translators is off the books and translators are free to pick up an AM signal.  As of that date, no further authority will be required from the FCC in order for an FM translator to rebroadcast an AM station. 

In fact, any existing STAs (Special Temporary Authority) previously granted by the Commission for such rebroadcasts will be canceled as of October 1st, as they will no longer be necessary.  Accordingly, FM translator stations that are currently rebroadcasting an AM signal pursuant to an STA should follow the FCC’s standard procedures and simply file a letter with the FCC indicating the full power station that is being carried.  Just as for the rebroadcast of an FM station, a translator stations must notify the Commission in writing of any change in the station being rebroadcast. 

As we summarized earlier, the rules governing rebroadcasts of AM stations are fairly similar to those for rebroadcasting FM.  The main issue with respect to AM rebroadcasts is that no portion of the 60 dBu contour of the FM translator station may extend beyond the smaller of:  (a) a 25-mile radius from the AM transmitter site; or (b) the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station.  Further, AM broadcast licensees with Class D (daytime-only) facilities will be allowed to originate programming on such FM translators during periods when the AM station is not operating.  So daytime-only AM stations can continue operating at night on a fill-in FM translator. 


Continue Reading Beginning Oct. 1st AM Radio Comes to the FM Dial

The FCC yesterday issued another in its series of EEO random audit notices, asking that approximately 170 radio stations nationwide provide information about their hiring practices.  Information requested includes the last two years worth of broadcast EEO Public File reports, plus more complete documentation of the efforts outlined in the Public File reports and demonstrating that the information provided in the annual report was really conducted and accurately reported.  In addition, the FCC asks that a station provide an explanation if their most recent EEO public fie report cannot be found on the Station’s website.  The FCC’s Public Notice about this audit, which lists the stations that must respond, can be found here.  That Public Notice also reminds broadcasters of the obligation to post the EEO public file report on the station’s website, perhaps indicating that the FCC has been investigating and has found instances where this is not being done.  Responses to the audit must be filed by September 21.  A form of the EEO audit letter is available here

On the same day as the FCC issued this audit for radio stations, it issued a Public Notice to remind Multi-Channel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs) with six or more full-time employees, including cable systems, of their obligation to file by September 30 their Annual EEO Program Reports on FCC Form 396-C .  This form is to be filed through the FCC’s electronic filing system.  This notice also reminds certain cable systems of the need to submit supplemental information about their hiring efforts to the FCC. 


Continue Reading FCC Announces New Round of EEO Audits for Radio Stations; Reminds Broadcsters of Requirement to Post Annual EEO Public File Report on Station Website, and Cable Companies of Obligation to File EEO Program Annual Report

The FCC has released its Order setting the amounts of the annual regulatory fees for broadcasters – though the window for making those payments has not yet been set.  Look for that window to be set in the near future, as payments will probably be due in September.  Broadcast fees are based on the class of facility and the population covered by the station.  All fees are based on the status of the station as of October 1 of 2008.  Click on "continue reading" below to see the amount of the fees to be paid by broadcasters. 

In its order, the FCC declined a request to broaden the categories of broadcast stations that were suffering from financial hardship justifying a waiver of the rules.  Stations seeking a financial hardship waiver must provide the FCC with sufficient financial information, including profit and loss statements and a showing of how much the station’s owners were receiving as compensation, for the Commission to make a determination that the payment of the fees would pose an undue hardship on the station.  The FCC did say that bankruptcy or receivership, or the fact that a station was silent or dark, would be viewed as evidence of financial hardship. 


Continue Reading FCC Announces Annual Regulatory Fees – Payment Deadlines Not Yet Set

An interview with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has just been released by Broadcasting and Cable magazine.  In that interview, the Chairman confirms press reports (which we cited here) that there is a planned FCC Notice of Inquiry to look into the news media in the digital world – the first public confirmation of this

For the first time since the term of FCC Commissioner Tate expired and Chairman Martin resigned, the FCC will be back to full strength with the Senate’s approval of new FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Attwell Baker.  What issues of importance to broadcasters will the Commission, now headed by Chairman Julius Genachowski, take up in coming months?   The new Chairman, who gave a number of interviews last week with the trade and popular press, emphasized the importance of the broadband rollout.  Beyond that, his priorities for the broadcast media were not detailed.  He did, however, emphasize, that any broadcast regulation (specifically referencing the mandatory review of the broadcast ownership rules that must begin next year), would have to take into account the realities of the marketplace – including the current economic conditions.

Beyond that, there were few clues as to the new FCC’s priorities in the broadcast world.  But, even though there are no indications of the FCC’s priorities, there are many open broadcast issues that the Commission will, sooner or later, need to resolve.  Some involve fundamental questions of priorities – trying to decide which user of the spectrum should be preferred over others.  Other issues deal with questions of what kind of public service obligations broadcasters will face.  And yet another set of issues deal with just the nitty gritty technical issues with which the FCC is often faced.  Let’s look at some of these open issues that may affect the broadcast industry. 


Continue Reading A Full Five Person FCC – What’s Next For Broadcasters?

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal discusses the significant amount of money being spent on television advertising for and against pending proposals for health care reform.  As we have written before, broadcasters are required to keep in their public file information about advertising dealing with Federal issues – records as detailed as those kept for political candidates.  Information in the file should include not only the sponsor of the ad, but also when the spots are scheduled to run (and, after the fact, when they did in fact run), the class of time purchased, and the price paid for the advertising.  Clearly, the health care issue is a Federal issue, as it is being considered by the US Congress in Washington.  So remember to keep your public file up to date with this required information. 

Section 315 of the Communications Act deals with these issues, stating that these records must be kept for any request to purchase time on a "political matter of national importance", which is defined as any matter relating to a candidate or Federal election or "a national legislative issue of public importance."  Clearly, health care would fit in that definition.  The specific information to be kept in the file includes:

  • If the request to purchase time is accepted or rejected
  • Dates on which the ad is run
  • The rates charged by the station
  • Class of time purchased
  • The issue to which the ad refers
  • The name of the purchaser of the advertising time including:
    • The name, address and phone number of a contact person
    • A list of the chief executive officers or members of the executive committee or board of directors of the sponsoring organization.


Continue Reading Health Policy Ads on Broadcast Stations – Remember Your Public File Obligations

With much of the media world celebrating the life of Walter Cronkite this weekend, we have to wonder what he would have thought about press reports that the FCC is considering the commencement of a proceeding to investigate the status of broadcast journalism – assessing its quality, determining whether the Internet and other new sources are making up for any quality that is lost, and potentially deciding to mandate specific amounts of news coverage by broadcast stations. That surprising story about a planned FCC Notice of Inquiry on the state of broadcast journalism was reported in an an online report picked up by the broadcast trade press last week.  And even if that story is not true, concerns about the government’s intrusion into a broadcaster’s coverage of controversial issues arise from the recent Congressional committee action voting down a bill that would ban the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.  In what should have been a symbolic embrace of the First Amendment (symbolic as, in the last 6 weeks, four of the FCC Commissioners or Commissioners-to-be disavowed any interest in bringing back the Fairness Doctrine in their confirmation hearings ), the defeat of the bill raises questions as to whether someone has an agenda to resurrect the government’s role in assessing broadcast media coverage of controversial issues.  In reading one of the many stories of the life of Cronkite (here, at page 3), we were stuck with the contrast between these actions, and the actions of Mr. Cronkite to address controversial issues – regardless of the FCC implications.  One anecdote related his questioning of John Kennedy about his religion when Kennedy thought that topic off limits, even in light of the potential president’s veiled threat that, when he took office, he would be appointing the FCC who would be regulating CBS.  Do we really want the FCC to have that power to assess what journalism is good, or what opinions each station must air to ensure "fairness"?

In reviewing the many FCC Fairness Doctrine claims that CBS faced in the Cronkite era, we are struck with the amount of time and money that must have been spent in defending its coverage against critics from both the right and the left.  We also found one particularly relevant quote from Mr. Cronkite himself: 

That brings me to what I consider the greatest threat to freedom of information: the Government licensing of broadcasting. Broadcast news today is not free. Because it is operated by an industry that is beholden to the Government for its right to exist, its freedom has been curtailed by fiat, by assumption, and by intimidation and harassment. 

 In the last 20 years, since Mr. Cronkite’s retirement as the CBS anchor, the FCC has steadily moved away from the role that he feared.  Yet with these recent actions, one wonders if there are some in government now trying to prove Mr. Cronkite’s concerns correct.


Continue Reading The Potential for the Return of the Fariness Doctrine and the FCC’s Assessment of the Quality of Broadcast News – What Would Walter Cronkite Think?