The deadline for filing applications in the LPFM window has been extended as a result of the Federal government shutdown – with the new filing deadline being November 14 at 6 PM Eastern Time.  The FCC filing system is open now, so parties can go ahead prepare and actually submit their applications now. But as, during the shutdown, the FCC’s system was not available for research or application preparation, and as the FCC staff was not available to answer questions, the Commission gave applicants additional time in which to submit their applications.

During the shutdown, the FCC had been scheduled to have a webinar to further explain the application process and to answer questions about the rules applicable to LPFM.  Obviously, the shutdown prevented that from happening, so the FCC has now rescheduled the seminar for October 24 at 1 PM.  The webinar can be accessed here


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The FCC issued further guidance on FCC filing deadlines for regulatory submissions that were due during the 16 day Federal shutdown. The FCC has essentially given most applicants and filers a 16 day extension of time to file anything that was due during the shutdown. They note, however, that there are certain deadlines that they cannot

The Federal government shutdown that we speculated about last week has now come to pass, and the clearest evidence is that, when you go to the FCC website, you are greeted by a special message essentially saying that the website is not available until after the shutdown ends. So, as we speculated last week, broadcast (and most other) applicants can’t even begin to prepare applications for filing when the government reopens, as the Commission’s CDBS database (as well as there other systems for filing electronic applications) is not available. Nor can you even access information about pending applications, pleadings that have been filed, or any of the other detailed information that is available on the FCC’s usually informative website. You’ll even note that links to FCC actions contained in many of the posts on this blog will not work, as the documents to which they link are resident on the FCC website. Similar notices are on most other government agency sites like, for instance, the Copyright Office site.

What is a broadcaster to do when they have an application or other deadline that falls during shutdown period? Stations sales will no doubt be closed, stations will be constructed with license applications due to be filed, there are license renewals that were due yesterday for radio stations in the Pacific northwest, Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific territories, and other pleadings and filings that are either now due, or will become due if the shutdown persists. One of the few documents that is available on the FCC’s site is a Public Notice on the Procedure for Filing in the Event of a Lapse in Funding, which provides a minimal amount of information about what is next. Beyond saying that the FCC is essentially closed, the notice does say that filings due during the shutdown would be due the day after the FCC returns to normal operations. The notice gives the example that, if funding is restored on a Monday, the FCC would return to normal operations on Tuesday, and filings due during the interim would be due on Wednesday. The Notice also states that, if there are issues restarting the electronic filing databases after the government reopens, further public notices will be issued, which presumably could further extend filing deadlines.


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Every two years, broadcasters are to file Biennial Ownership Reports on Form 323 to detail the ownership of the companies that hold FCC licenses. Since 2009, all commercial broadcasters across the country are to file such reports in the same window of time. Theoretically, these reports are supposed to be filed between October 1 and November 1 of odd numbered years, yet since the adoption of the uniform date, the November 1 deadline has never held. This year, too, the deadline has been moved (as we wrote here) to December 2.  The window for filing such reports is now open, according to an FCC Public Notice released on Friday. As the reports are supposed to detail a company’s ownership report as of October 1, at this point companies should know what that ownership is, so that they can begin the process of completing the forms and getting them on file.

Noncommercial broadcasters are still on a system where they file their biennial reports on the anniversary dates of their license renewals, so the December 2 deadline does not apply to them (except for stations in those few states where December just happens to be the anniversary of their renewal filings, e.g. noncommercial radio stations in New England). However, as we wrote here when the rules for new Biennial Ownership Reports were adopted, the FCC is considering bringing all noncommercial broadcasters into the same system as their commercial brethren. The report forms used by commercial broadcasters for their biennial reports is more complicated than the normal ownership report form, requiring all individuals who have attributable interests in a licensee to get their own FCC Registration Number (or an “FRN” as it is commonly known), which in turn normally requires that the individuals provide a Social Security Number (or Taxpayer ID Number for entities that have interests in licensees). Having to provide that information has been a controversial requirement, with the FCC offering a work around for owners who refuse to provide that information (a work-around that the FCC has proposed to eliminate, a proposal that has not yet been adopted). Why the need for this FRN for every individual?


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The buzz in Washington this week is about whether the FCC and the rest of the Federal government will be open come next Tuesday, October 1. October 1 is the start of the FCC’s fiscal year, and without a “continuing resolution” (Congressional authorization to keep the government running at current levels even without a formal budget), there will be no authorized funds to run the government, and there will effectively be a shut-down of all but “essential” government services. Even if Tuesday’s deadline is averted, the government faces another potential shut-down of some of its functions in the middle of the month (apparently by October 17) unless there is a vote to raise the Federal debt ceiling. As attempts to repeal the new health care law are being tied to the legislation necessary to fund the government, many think that there is a real possibility that we will see a shut-down for the first time in almost twenty years in October. What would such a shutdown mean for broadcasters?

While the FCC has not yet issued a plan for a shutdown, such plans are beginning to be seen at other government agencies. So, while we don’t know for sure what the FCC’s plans would look like yet, we can look at the plan issued in 2011, when the government last came within hours of a shutdown. We wrote about that situation here. Basically, most all of the FCC’s workforce would need to go home, and could not perform any functions while the government is closed. Thus, there will be no construction permits issued for new or improved stations, and no grants of other pending applications – including assignments and transfers – meaning that sales of stations would be in limbo for however long the shutdown lasts. FCC officials could not travel, so they could not attend any broadcaster conventions or other meetings that may have been planned. And, in most other shut-downs (or in shutdown planning), the Commission’s staff was not even allowed to voluntarily do anything related to their official business – so they could not answer emails or phone calls from home, or travel on their own dime to anything related to their official functions.


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September is one of the few months without a due date for the standard regulatory filings – no renewals, EEO public file reports, and no Quarterly Issues Programs Lists or Children’s Television Reports. Instead, the big filing this month is one that applies to all commercial broadcasters (and most entities regulated by the FCC in other services as well) – the annual regulatory fees due on September 20. We wrote about the deadline here (with links to the FCC webpage on which you can look up your fees), and the amounts of the fees by category of broadcaster, here. But just because there are no other regular filings due at the FCC does not mean that those in charge of regulatory compliance at your stations can take the month off once they have paid the fees.

No, there are plenty of other deadlines to which broadcasters should pay attention. Those who filed license renewal applications for radio stations in California and for TV stations in Illinois and Wisconsin should be running their post-filing license renewal announcements on the 1st and the 16th of the month. The next round of license renewals will be filed on October 1, and stations in the states where those renewals are due should be running the third and fourth of their pre-filing renewal announcements on the 1st and 16th. That would be TV stations in Iowa and Missouri, and radio stations in Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Guam, the Mariana Islands, and Saipan.


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The FCC has just announced that the Form 323 Biennial Ownership Reports for commercial broadcasters, due to be filed on or before November 1 of this year, will now be due instead by December 2. This is the third straight time that the obligation to file these reports has been extended, due to the complexity and confusion that surrounds the completion of the information that is required on the form. All commercial broadcasters, including LPTV licensees, need to file this form by the new deadline. As set forth in more detail below, at this point, this obligation does not extend to noncommercial educational licensees.

In 2009, the FCC adopted a requirement for modified Biennial Ownership Reports for all commercial stations, requiring that such reports be filed by all commercial broadcasters – including LPTV licensees, sole proprietors, general partnerships and other licensees who had previously been exempt from such obligations. The reports were to be filed on an expanded form that gathers information not just about who the owners of broadcast stations are, but also the race or ethnicity and gender of such owners. This information was to be gathered so that the FCC could better assess the minority ownership of broadcast stations.  This was to be used for purposes such as developing new ownership rules for the broadcast industry.  In fact, the information gathered from the first set of these forms was recently the subject of comment in the ongoing multiple ownership proceeding at the FCC (see our article here).

The forms were also supposed to be searchable by individual, so that the FCC or interested parties could easily cross-reference the broadcast interests of various individuals. To do so, however, required the gathering of new information, and required that every individual obtain an FCC Registration Number (an FRN), which required that they provide a Social Security or Taxpayer ID Number (for corporate owners of licensees) to the FCC. This obligation stirred much controversy. In addition, the format of the reporting of the other broadcast interests of individuals required much more time than had previous reports.  That complexity has not disappeared over time. 


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Another month is upon us, along with all of the FCC regulatory obligations that accompany it. August brings a host of license renewal obligations, along with EEO public file obligations in a number of states, as well as noncommercial Biennial Ownership Report filings in several states. We also expect that the FCC will notify stations of the date for the payment of their regulatory fees (which will either be due late this month or early next). As we reported yesterday, the filing of long-form translator applications for over 1000 applicants from the 2003 FM translator window also comes at the end of the month. There are comments due in a number of FCC proceedings. We’ll talk about some of those issues below. For TV broadcasters, we also suggest that you review our article that recently ran in TV NewsCheck, updating TV broadcasters on issues of relevance to them not only this month, but providing a description of the full gamut of issues facing TV broadcasters. We prepare this update for TV NewsCheck quarterly.

Today brings the deadline for the filing of license renewal applications for radio stations in California and for TV stations in Illinois and WisconsinStations in these states, and in North and South Carolina also have EEO public inspection file reports that should be placed in their public inspection files no later than today. Noncommercial TV stations in Illinois and Wisconsin also need to file Biennial Ownership Reports today, and noncommercial radio stations in California, North Carolina, and South Carolina should also file their Biennial Ownership Reports by today.


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July has many FCC obligations for broadcasters, both regularly scheduled and unique to 2013. There are the normal obligations, like the Quarterly Issues Programs lists, that need to be in the public file of all broadcast stations, radio and TV, commercial and noncommercial, by July 10. Quarterly Children’s television reports are also due to