Low Power Television/Class A TV

The FCC denied reconsideration on the last phase of the digital television transition – requiring that all LPTV stations and TV translators cease analog operations and be operating digitally by September 1, 2015. See our summary of the original ruling on the digital conversion of LPTV and TV translator stations here. In denying reconsideration, the FCC determined that the September 1, 2015 date will hold – denying requests that the final decision be postponed while the FCC considers the repacking of the television band as part of the incentive auction process to clear part of the TV spectrum for wireless broadband purposes. The FCC also noted that some parties wanted to keep operating in an analog mode on TV channel 6, as the audio can be received by FM receivers (so-called "Franken FMs"). The Commission determined that using Channel 6 to provide an audio service this was not a sufficient reason to keep analog operations on TV channels alive past the deadline that they have established. (See our articles about these hybrid LPTV/FM stations, which take advantage of the fact that Channel 6 is adjacent to the FM band and that analog TV used an FM audio system, here).

The Commission did note that, in response to some petitions for reconsideration, that any LPTV station or translator moving to Channel 6 for digital operations be required to protect noncommercial FM stations that would be operating on adjacent frequencies. While the Commission does not expect that such interference will occur frequently, they made clear that LPTV and TV translators are secondary services, and they cannot continue to operate if they cause interference to primary services, including primary noncommercial FM stations.


Continue Reading No Relief on LPTV/TV Translator Digital Conversion Deadline – 2015 Deadline for End of Analog Operations Upheld on Reconsideration

Fines of $20,000 for violations of the obligations to prepare and file Children’s Television Reports have been flowing out from the FCC as it works its way through license renewal applications filed by television stations over the last year. We wrote about a number of these fines here, when the first wave of fines was issued by the FCC, mostly dealing with Class A TV stations. In the last two weeks, the fines have continued, with a few targeting full power television stations, and many others hitting Class A stations. In several cases, the fines reached $20,000, and included fines not only for the failure to file the reports with the FCC on a timely basis, but also the late placement of the reports into the station’s public file, and the failure to report the deficiencies in compliance on the license renewal forms. There were new cases involving Class A television stations and, as with the last batch of these cases, the Commission made clear that the licensees could give up their Class A status to avoid the proposed fines – not mentioning that, if they did so, they would also be giving up their status as primary station licensees, meaning that they would be secondary to any new full power TV construction (for a new station or a modification of an existing station) and would also lose any protection that they otherwise would have in the repacking of the television band in the upcoming incentive auctions that will sell part of the current TV spectrum to wireless users for wireless broadband uses.

The cases decided in the last two weeks include a $20,000 proposed fine to a full-power station in Louisiana that did not timely file 18 Form 398 Reports during the license term ($17,000 for the late filings and $3000 for not reporting the late filings in the renewal application). In another case involving a proposed $20,000 fine, a Georgia Class A station had failed to timely file 20 Form 398 Reports, and also did not complete 15 Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and place those reports in its public file on a timely basis. With the online public file, compliance with the Quarterly Issues Programs list requirement can be monitored by the FCC, even though such reports are not filed at the FCC. A third $20,000 fine was given to a Class A station that was late with 25 children’s television reports, and failed to identify the failures on the renewal, even though the FCC had inquired about the status of 7 of those reports before the renewal was submitted, and the licensee had admitted its failures to comply with the rules. $10,000 of the fine was attributed to the late-filed public file documents, $7000 to the late-filing of the Form 398s, and $3000 to the failure to admit the violations in the license renewal. 


Continue Reading More Big FCC Fines for Children’s Television Violations

In at least 7 decisions released last week, the FCC fined TV stations between $3000 and $18,000 for failure to timely file Form 398 Children’s Television Reports – reporting on the programming broadcast by the stations to address the educational and informational needs of children. In these cases, the fines were not for failing to file the reports at all, but instead for the failure to timely file the reports. All but one of the cases involved Class A television stations, which, as we’ve written before, are being subject to very strict scrutiny as the FCC looks to find some willing to give up their protected status before the upcoming incentive auctions (Class A stations being protected from being bumped off the air by new users – but subject to all the rules applicable to full power stations). In each of the cases involving Class A stations, the FCC has offered to forget the fines for noncompliance, if the station gives up its Class A status and becomes an LPTV station, which has no protections.  If the station gives up its protected status, it will have no rights to receive compensation if it gives up its channel in the incentive auction, or if it is forced to change channels in the repacking of TV channels after that auction. 

These cases all stem from the FCC review of the license renewal of the station. With the obligation to file a Form 398 only two weeks away – the quarterly report being due on July 10 – TV stations, especially stations that have not yet filed their renewals, need to pay attention now to make sure that they don’t miss the upcoming deadline.  With public files now online, the FCC late-filing becomes more visible, and with the television renewal cycle in full swing, many TV stations are either now or soon to be under the scrutiny of the FCC. So meeting these obligations becomes important – as the failures can be costly. And, as set forth below, any time that there are multiple late filings – late by more than 10 days (which the FCC note that it might excuse as de minimis) – a fine is likely.


Continue Reading FCC Fines of Up to $18,000 Proposed for 7 TV Stations For Failure To Timely File Children’s Television Reports – The Big Renewal Issue for TV Stations?

Another radio topic sure to be discussed at the NAB convention this week is the ongoing story of the thousands of FM applications translators still pending at the FCC from the 2003 FM translator window. While this has been a topic at many of the NAB Conventions in the last 10 years, it looks like the end is near. On Tuesday, the FCC adopted yet another order in the processing of these translators, allowing applicants who specified that they were noncommercial operators to amend their applications in a window from April 8 to April 17 to specify commercial operations. That is important to such applicants as, soon after these applications were filed back in 2003, the FCC adopted a policy that said that applicants who elect noncommercial processing could not participate in an auction – and that they would be dismissed if they were mutually exclusive with commercial applicants. Not allowing these applicants the opportunity to amend (as the FCC has done in several other auctions from this period), would mean that the applicants would be dismissed for a defect that had not been announced at the time of their filing.

This is but one more step in the ongoing attempts to complete the processing of these applications so as to permit a new LPFM window later in the year. This will probably mean that thousands of new FM translators will be granted in the coming months – providing opportunities for the expansion of broadcasters’ signals, either in the traditional way of filling in holes in the coverage of FM broadcast stations, or by allowing for the retransmission of AM and FM-HD signals. This should prompt many discussions at the NAB Convention as broadcasters look at the opportunities that these new translator stations will present.


Continue Reading FCC Processing of Translator Applications from 2003 Moves Ahead – Window for Opting Out of Noncommercial Status to Participate in the Auction

Every year, about this time, I dust off the crystal ball to offer a look at the year ahead to see what Washington has in store for broadcasters. This year, like many in the recent past, Washington will consider important issues for both radio and TV, as well as issues affecting the growing on-line presence of broadcasters. The FCC, Congress, and other government agencies are never afraid to provide their views on what the industry should be doing but, unlike other members of the broadcasters’ audience, they can force broadcasters to pay attention to their views by way of new laws and regulations. And there is never a shortage of ideas from Washington as to how broadcasters should act. Some of the issues discussed below are perennials, coming back over and over again on my yearly list (often without resolution), while others are unique to this coming year.

Last week, we published a calendar of regulatory deadlines for broadcasters.  This article looks ahead, providing a preview of what other changes might be coming for broadcasters this year – but these are delivered with no guarantees that the issues listed will in fact bubble up to the top of the FCC’s long list of pending items, or that they will be resolved when we predict. But at least this gives you some warning of what might be coming your way this year. Issues unique to radio and TV, and those that could affect the broadcast industry generally, are addressed below.

General Broadcast Issues

 

There are numerous issues before the FCC that affect both radio and television broadcasters, some of which have been pending for many years and are ripe for resolution, while others are raised in proceedings that are just beginning. These include:

 

Multiple Ownership Rules Review: The FCC is very close to resolving its Quadrennial review of its multiple ownership proceeding, officially begun in 2011 with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The rumors were that the FCC was ready to issue an order at the end of 2012 relaxing the rules against the cross-ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers, as well as the radio-television cross-interest prohibitions, while leaving most other rules in place. TV Joint Sales Agreements were also rumored to be part of the FCC’s considerations – perhaps making some or all of these agreements attributable. But even these modest changes in the rules are now on hold, while parties submit comments on the impact of any relaxation of the ownership rules on minority ownership. Still, we would expect that some decision on changes to the ownership rules should be expected at some point this year – probably early in the year. 


Continue Reading Gazing Into the Crystal Ball – What Washington Has In Store For Broadcasters in 2013

While the FCC has not yet started a proceeding to set rules for the auction of television spectrum for broadband purposes, the Commission is taking steps to clear the spectrum in other ways.  Two weeks ago, we wrote about the FCC’s actions proposing to remove the Class A designation from certain LPTV stations that had

Yesterday, the FCC issued fines totaling $52,000 against four Class A television stations for belatedly filing their FCC Form 398 Children’s Television Programming Reports. The stations, each of which had missed at least a couple of years’ worth of Children’s Reports, were also fined for failing to timely place the reports in their public

The FCC has released 16 Show Cause Orders threatening to deprive a number of low power television (LPTV) stations of their Class A status for failure to file Children’s Television Programming Reports.  These orders appear to be implementing a long-rumored get-tough policy on Class A TV stations, as the FCC prepares to clear portions of the TV spectrum to auction it for use by wireless broadband providers, in accordance with the authorizing legislation we wrote about last week. Class A stations are protected from interference like full power TV stations, while other LPTV licensees can be displaced from their current channels by new primary users – potentially including future wireless broadband auction winners. Therefore, if these Class A stations are downgraded to LPTV status, the FCC could displace them as needed for spectrum auctions.  If they retain their Class A status, they are protected like full-power TV stations, and the FCC must attempt to replicate their coverage in any repacking of the spectrum that may occur.

These 16 Show Cause Orders all have essentially the same set of facts as this one.  Specifically, all of the stations failed to file multiple Children’s Television Programming Reports and failed to respond to FCC letters cautioning the stations that failure to file these reports could result in loss of Class A status.  As the FCC notes in all of the Show Cause Orders, Class A licensees are required to comply with many full power TV requirements, including the need to maintain a main studio and a public inspection file, to comply with children’s programming requirements, political programming requirements, station identification requirements and Emergency Alert System rules. Failure to comply with any of these requirements could result in loss of Class A status.


Continue Reading Failure to File Children’s Programming Reports Could Cause Loss of Class A Status for LPTV Stations

By December 1, 2011, all commercial and noncommercial full power digital television (DTV) stations, as well as all digital low power, Class A, and television translator stations must electronically file an FCC Form 317 with the FCC. This Form reports whether the station has provided any ancillary and supplementary services during the twelve-month period ending on