While September is one of those months with neither EEO reports nor Quarterly Issues Programs or Children’s Television Reports, that does not mean that there are no regulatory matters of importance to broadcasters. Quite the contrary – as there are many deadlines to which broadcasters should be paying attention. The one regulatory obligation that in recent years has come to regularly fall in September is the requirement for commercial broadcasters to pay their regulatory fees – the fees that they pay to the US Treasury to reimburse the government for the costs of the FCC’s operations. We don’t know the specific window for filing those fees yet, nor do we know the exact amount of the fees. But we do know that the FCC will require that the fees be paid before the October 1 start of the next fiscal year, so be on the alert for the announcement of the filing deadline which should be released any day now.

September 20 brings the next Nationwide Test of the EAS system, and the obligations to submit information about that test to the FCC. As we have written before (here and here), the first of those forms, ETRS Form One, providing basic information about each station’s EAS status is due today, August 27. Form Two is due the day of the test – reporting as to whether or not the alert was received and transmitted. More detailed information about a station’s participation in the test is due by November 5 with the filing of ETRS Form Three. Also on the EAS front, comments are due by September 10 on the FCC’s proposal to require stations to report on any false or inaccurate EAS reports originated from their stations. See our articles here and here.
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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.
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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.
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