The FCC issued public notices this week on the license renewal process for both radio and television operators. The Public Notice on television renewals was perhaps more significant, as it addressed several issues and procedures for the television renewal process which begins with the filing of renewals for stations located in Maryland, DC, Virginia
Earlier today, we wrote about the FCC’s reminder that TV broadcasters must, by February 4, complete the upload to their FCC-mandated online public inspection file all materials from the current renewal term that were created prior to the August 2 effective date of the online public inspection file requirement. We noted that the FCC had not addressed the question of stations that had outstanding renewals from the last renewal term – which could potentially mandate that some stations upload as much as 16 years worth of material to their online files. Well, today, the FCC issued another decision waiving its rules so that stations only need to post Quarterly Issues Programs lists from the current license term on their online public files – subject to some caveats.
There are certain limits on this waiver. If the limits are not met, then all Quarterly Issues Programs lists, back to the last granted renewal, have to be posted to the online public file. The limits include the following:
- The last renewal cannot have been opposed by a member of the public.
- The delay in the renewal cannot have been caused by issues relating to the public interest service of the station to its local service area
- The station must continue to keep the Quarterly Issues Programs lists from the last renewal cycle at the station in a paper public file.
This decision does not relieve stations from all obligations to post materials from prior renewal terms, as described below.
In March, we cautioned broadcasters against the airing of ads for medical marijuana. Our concerns stemmed not only from a complaint pending at the FCC, but also because, despite the widespread belief that the Federal government no longer cared about medical marijuana use and sale, the Department of Justice had only said that prosecution was no longer a priority, not that it was no longer illegal. In recent months, our concerns seem more and more justified. We had worried about some local Federal prosecutor deciding that he or she had time to prosecute offenses, even though DOJ headquarters did not think it to be a priority. But, based on press reports and DOJ’s own press releases, it looks like there has been at least some rethinking of the policies in Washington, DC as well. The DOJ appears to be backtracking on medical marijuana, now saying only that it won’t prosecute individuals who use medical marijuana, but that dispensaries, even if set up under the color of state laws, are still illegal under Federal law and subject to Federal prosecution. Thus, broadcasters, as Federal licensees, need to exercise extreme care in advertising such dispensaries.
In the last few days, NPR has broadcast stories about the Department of Justice writing letters to authorities in Rhode Island and Arizona, in both cases saying that the Federal government still considers the sale of marijuana, even medical marijuana, to be a Federal felony subject to prosecution. Both states are now reconsidering their laws that would otherwise allow for the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries. The DOJ, on its website, cites a US Attorney in Washington State who has written to the landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries, warning them of the penalties that they may face if they allow these dispensaries to continue to operate, going so far as to warn them that they may face the forfeiture of their property to the government as it is being used to distribute prohibited drugs. As this letter states, “We intend to use the full extent of our legal remedies to enforce the law.” This language should serve as a warning to broadcasters of the Federal government’s attitude toward marijuana dispensaries.
February 1 is the deadline by which broadcast stations in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma must place into their Public Inspection files their Annual EEO Public Inspection File Report. The report must also be available on these stations’ websites, if they have such sites. The Annual EEO Public Inspection File Report…