At the end of last week, the FCC’s Audio Division released a letter decision denying a Class A FM station licensee (limited in power to 6 KW) a waiver that would have allowed it to upgrade its facilities to those that would be equivalent to what would be permitted if the Commission was to establish a Class C4 FM.  The Division found that granting such a waiver would prejudge the FCC’s pending proceeding looking at whether the FCC should approve Class C4 stations.  Where does that proceeding stand?

The pending proposal to create a Class C4 FM station, i.e., one operating with maximum effective radiated power of 12 kw (essentially midway between the power limits of the current Class A stations and Class C3 FMs that are limited to 25 kw), has been advocated at the FCC for several years.  Sponsors contend that it would allow Class A stations to not only solidify and expand their coverage, but also to overcome some of the building penetration issues that are alleged to occur when reception is limited inside buildings constructed of certain materials.  The proposal for this new class of FM station has not been unanimously supported by other broadcasters.
Continue Reading No Class C4 FM To Be Permitted By Waiver – Where Things Stand on Proposal for New Class of FM Stations

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

  • The FCC has started planning for its next AM/FM radio auction (Auction 109) scheduled to begin on July 27.  Four

It may be time for summer vacations, but the FCC seemingly never rests, so there are a number of important dates of which broadcasters need to take note. By August 1, EEO Annual Public File Reports are due to added to the public files of Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, if those stations are part of an Employment Unit with five or more full-time employees. TV stations in California have the added requirement that they submit an EEO Mid-Term Report with the FCC by that same date. While the FCC last year simplified EEO recruiting, it still enforces the EEO rules, as evidenced by an admonition that was issued to a TV station at the end of last week, and the fines imposed on radio stations late last year. So don’t forget these obligations (especially as the enforcement of these rules will soon be handled by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, rather than the Media Bureau, suggesting that there will be more enforcement of those rules – see our article here).

On other matters, there are numerous open FCC proceedings in which broadcasters may want to participate. Comments are due on August 6 on the FCC’s rulemaking proposal to adopt simplified rules for processing complaints of interference by FM translators to full power stations. See our articles here and here for details on that proposal.
Continue Reading August Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Filings, Comments on FM Translator Interference and Class C4 Proposal, EAS Form One and More

July brings the obligation for each full-power broadcaster to add a new Quarterly Issues Programs List to their online public inspection file. These reports, summarizing the issues facing each station’s community of license in the prior three months and the programs broadcast by the station to address those issues, must be added to the public file by July 10. As we wrote here, these reports are very important – as they are the only documents legally required by the FCC to show how a station served the public interest. With the online file, these reports can be reviewed by anyone with an Internet connection at any time, which could be particularly concerning for any station that does not meet the filing deadline, especially with license renewals beginning again next year.

Also to be filed with the FCC by July 10, by full-power and Class A TV stations, are Quarterly Children’s Television Reports. While the FCC announced last week that it will be considering a rulemaking proposal at its July meeting to potentially change the rules (see its proposed Notice of Proposed Rulemaking here), for now the requirements remain in place obligating each station to broadcast 3 weekly hours of programming designed to meet the educational and informational needs of children for each free program stream transmitted by the station. Also, certifications need to be included in each station’s online public file demonstrating that the station has complied with the rules limiting the amount of commercialization during children’s television programs.
Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and Children’s Television Reports, EAS Reform, LPFM and FM Translators, C Band Earth Stations and More

The FCC yesterday released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking to gather more information about a proposal to establish a new Class C4 FM station. This new class of FM station would allow some Class A stations, currently limited to power levels of 6 kW ERP at an antenna heights of no more than 100 meters, to increase their facilities to up to 12 kW. We wrote about this proposal here and here at earlier stages of its consideration. The FCC also includes in its Notice of Inquiry a proposal to amend Section 73.215 of the FCC rules. That section allows FM stations to be located at less than the normally required distances to stations to which they could potentially cause interference, if they use directional antennas or otherwise protect the other station’s maximum permitted facilities. The proposal on which the FCC seeks comments is one that would allow short-spacings under Section 73.215 if the upgrading station protects the other station’s actual contours, not their maximum permitted contour. In other words, stations that are not operating at the full permissible height or power for their class of FM station could lose protections they currently enjoy, and either be forced to upgrade themselves to block the short-spaced application or be prohibited from doing so in the future.

On the C4 proposal, the FCC asks how the implementation of this proposal would impact other full-service stations and the many new FM translators that have been authorized in the last few years. In addition, the FCC asks whether any increased coverage by the stations that could take advantage of the C4 proposal would outweigh the general increase in the “noise floor” (the overall interference caused to FM stations) in the FM band. Questions about the proposal’s impact on LPFM channel availability are also raised in the NOI.
Continue Reading FCC Issues Notice of Inquiry on Establishing a Class C4 FM Station and Changing Short-Spacing Rules

At last week’s Radio Show, Commissioner Pai presented remarks, talking about the pending regulatory ideas that can help radio broadcasters. After discussing the benefits of the recent rule changes that have made translators available for AM stations, and other AM improvement proposals that are on the table, he turned to FM. In his discussion of FM, he applauded efforts to include an activated FM chip in mobile phones. Then, he turned to a proposal first put out for FCC comments two years ago – the idea that the FCC look at the potential of the creation of a new class of FM stations – the Class C4 FM radio station.

A Class C4 station would fit between Class A FM stations (limited to 6 kw ERP at 100 meters antenna height above average terrain) and a Class C3 (25 kw at 100 meters). The Class C4 station would be authorized with a power of up to 12 kw ERP. According to the Commissioner’s speech, this would allow for Class A stations to upgrade their facilities to better serve their communities. We wrote about this proposal when it was first released (here), presenting more details about the technical facilities that are involved in this proposal. While some broadcasters did initially support the proposal, others were less enthusiastic about the idea. Why are there issues with this proposal?
Continue Reading Commissioner Pai Proposes Looking at Class C4 FM Stations – Good for Broadcasters?

September is one of those few months of the year where there are no regular FCC filing deadlines – no quarterly issues programs lists, no children’s television reports, no annual EEO public file reports, and no ownership reports or renewal deadlines.  For TV stations that recently filed a renewal, or which are about to file one, there are the pre-or post-filing notices.  But for most broadcasters, the one routine regulatory deadline in September (which has, in the past, sometimes fallen in August), is the obligation to pay annual regulatory fees.  But, so far, the FCC has not released the Order officially stating what those fees will be, or the Notice setting the filing deadlines – though we expect these notices any day (perhaps any moment).  As the fees need to be paid before the start of the FCC’s new fiscal year on October 1, expect that those fees will be due at some point before the end of September.

While there are few of these routine filing deadlines in September (though broadcasters should, of course, be preparing for the due date for many of these reports in early October), there are a number of important proceedings with September comment dates, appeal deadlines or other important milestones.  And there is the start of the Lowest Unit Rate window for the November election.  Some of the September deadlines are summarized below.
Continue Reading September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Regulatory Fees, Lowest Unit Rates, and Comments on Multiple Ownership, Online Public File for Radio and MVPDs, Music Licensing and Class C4 FM Stations

The FCC yesterday issued a public notice extending the time for comments on a Petition for Rulemaking seeking, among other things, to create a Class C4 FM station with maximum power levels at about 12 kW, twice the power of the least powerful class of FM stations – Class A stations that are limited to 6 kW in power.  As we wrote earlier this month when we first addressed this topic, this request for comments is only a preliminary request seeking input as to whether the Commission should even consider this petition further.  Depending on the comments received, the Commission could do nothing at all, or they could adopt a formal notice of proposed rulemaking looking to adopt specific rules for the new service.  Comments on the proposal are now due on September 18, 2014, with reply comments to be filed by October 3.

What does this proposal request?  As stated above, the principal request is that a new FM class of station – a Class C4 – be adopted.  This class would allow Class A stations to approximately double their power to a maximum of 12 kW.  The petitioner points out that the current differences between the classes of FM stations is approximately 3 dB between all classes of FM stations, except for the difference between the current Class A and C3 classes, where the difference in signal intensity is about twice that amount.  Adding the C4 class would make the increases in power between the classes more uniform, and would allow many Class A stations to reach more people and to better penetrate buildings in urban areas.  Why aren’t all broadcasters in favor of this proposal?
Continue Reading FCC Extends Dates for Comments on Proposal to Create a Class C4 FM Station – What Does This Proposal Seek?