In every license renewal application, applicants must certify that their operations are in compliance with the RF radiation standards set out in Section 1.1310 of the Commission’s rules. In connection with the renewal applications of two Hawaii FM stations, the FCC issued short-term one-year renewals of the station’s licenses, rather than the normal 8 year renewals. The Commission’s decision chronicles a period that spanned several years where the FCC twice found the stations to be in violation of the RF radiation rules, responding to complaints from those who worked nearby. The first time the station had reported that the problem was corrected, the FCC inspected and found that it still existed. Finally, after these inspections and FCC fines for noncompliance, the stations moved to new sites that resolved the issues.

Beyond the demonstration of how seriously the FCC takes its RF radiation rules, and how broadcasters need to be truthful and accurate in reporting on the state of their compliance, the decision shows the FCC’s process of evaluating penalties when deciding whether to issue a license renewal to an applicant with a history of rule violations. The FCC has several choices when confronted at license renewal time with violations of its rules. In many cases (like public file violations that we wrote about last week), the FCC will simply issue a fine. As in this case, the FCC can issue a short-term renewal. But, in the case of serious violations, the FCC can “designate a case for hearing”, meaning that they send the renewal application to an administrative law judge (a judge who is part of the FCC) to hold a trial-type hearing to determine if the license should be revoked. When is that most serious option pursued?


Continue Reading Short Term License Issued to Radio Stations Because of Violations of RF Radiation Rules – Showing the FCC’s Options for Penalties at License Renewal Time

Just a reminder to broadcast stations in certain states of several upcoming February obligations.  First up, February 1st is the deadline for Radio Stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi to file their FCC Form 303-S license renewal applications seeking a renewal of their broadcast licenses.  (See our earlier license renewal advisory for more information about the FCC’s

What’s up for broadcasters in 2012?  What dates do they need to keep on their radar to make sure that they are in legal compliance?  Our broadcaster calendar for 2012 is now available and ready for your review.  It’s an especially busy year – with television license renewals beginning and radio renewals continuing, lowest unit

All commercial broadcasters (AM/FM/TV and even LPTV) have to file their Biennial Ownership Reports on December 1, beginning a very busy month in the broadcaster’s regulatory world.  December 1 is also the deadline for noncommercial ownership reports to be filed by noncommercial radio stations in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, and noncommercial television stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota (see our Advisory here)Annual EEO Public File reports are also due to be in station files for stations in all of the states where noncommercial stations have ownership filings (see our Advisory on the EEO Public File Report here).  License renewals for radio broadcasters in Georgia and Alabama are also due on that date (see our License Renewal advisory here) , as are the Commission’s cut of the ancillary and supplementary revenues made by digital television broadcasters (our summary here).  And all full-power broadcasters need to file their reports on the results of the recent Nationwide EAS Test by December 27 (see our post here).

December also brings a Commission meeting, at which the CALM Act rules will be adopted according to the tentative agenda for the December 12 meeting.   The CALM Act is intended to eliminate loud commercials.  These rules are required by statute to be adopted in December (see our summary of the proposed rules here).  Comments on a number of other FCC proposals in rulemaking proceedings are also due. The FCC just announced  that comments in the proceeding to determine if FM digital operations using the IBOC technology (so-called HD Radio) can operate with different power levels on each side of the main channel are due by December 19 (see our summary of this proceeding here). Comments on the controversial proposal for the online public inspection file for television stations are due on December 22.


Continue Reading December 1 Deadline for Biennial Ownership Reports Begins A Busy Regulatory Month for Broadcasters

The tenuous legal status of marijuana advertising on broadcast stations just got a little more tenuous as a Federal prosecutor in Southern California has reportedly indicated an intent to prosecute radio and TV stations, as well as newspapers and magazines, that advertise medical marijuana clinics.  As we have written before, advertising such clinics was

Online public files, detailed reports about virtually every program aired on a television station as to its source and whether it addressed various types of perceived community interests, and other paperwork requirements that would have required most television stations to hire a new employee just to deal with the burden, were all part of mandatory television public interest reporting requirements adopted by the FCC back in 2007 (see our articles here and here on these reports on FCC Form 355).  Similar obligations were also proposed for radio but never adopted.  The TV "enhanced disclosure" rules have never been implemented, however, and were apparently never even submitted to the Office of Management and Budget  for approval of their compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act.  The numerous petitions for reconsideration filed against these rules are on the tentative agenda for the next FCC meeting, to be held on October 27.  Not only is the disposition of these petitions on the agenda, but a proposal for a further proceeding to look at new requirements for an online public file, to be hosted by the FCC, is to be considered at the same time.  What can broadcasters expect to happen?

In the Future of Media Report issued by the Commission earlier this year (actually renamed the Report on the Information Needs of Communities), the FCC study group recommended abolishing these 2007 rules, and terminating the proceeding looking at imposing them on radio (see our summary here).  The Report seemed to recognize that the reports were far too burdensome on licensees, and were not reasonably related to the current FCC rules on programming.  In essence, the reports required the collection of lots of information, without any regulatory purpose for the information collected.  In light of these findings, and the 4 year delay in implementing the rules already adopted, it seems safe to conclude that the 2007 rules are probably on their way out.  But the accompanying notice suggesting that the FCC will begin a new rulemaking to look at the online public inspection files, to be hosted by the FCC, raises questions about what will replace the 2007 rules.


Continue Reading TV Public Interest Obligations and Online Public Inspection File on Agenda for Next FCC Meeting

Just a reminder to broadcast stations in certain states of several upcoming October obligations.  First up, October 3rd is the deadline for Radio Stations in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to file their FCC Form 303-S license renewal applications seeking a renewal of their broadcast licenses.  (See our earlier license renewal advisory here.)  Accordingly

Just a reminder to broadcast stations in certain states of several upcoming August 1st obligations.  Specifically, on Aug. 1, radio stations in certain states must commence pre-filing or post-filing announcements (depending on the state in which they are located) in connection with the license renewal cycle.  In addition, Annual EEO Public File Reports must be prepared and placed in

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.


Continue Reading More Concerns About The Broadcast of Medical Marijuana Ads

Just a reminder that radio stations in North Carolina and South Carolina are up next in the license renewal cycle, which means that pre-filing announcements for radio stations in these states must start on June 1st.  The announcements continue on June 16, July 1, and July 16, for a total of four pre-filing announcements.