Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC this week adopted revisions to certain EAS rules. Among other actions, the new rules (1) will change the

Low Power FM is back in the news this week.  As we noted a week ago in our summary of FCC regulatory actions, a Petition for Rulemaking has been filed by REC Networks asking that the maximum authorized power for LPFM stations be raised from 100 to 250 watts.  The hope among LPFM advocates is that an increase in power will allow such stations to increase service in their communities.  REC asks that this proposal be adopted based entirely on mileage separation rules (i.e., how far these stations would have to be spaced from other stations operating on the same or an adjacent channel), even while recognizing that, in some cases, the mileage separations could create interference to existing FM stations or FM translators.  This is just an initial proposal asking the FCC to start a rulemaking to further consider this power increase.  Comments on this proposal are due June 21, 2021.

In addition, in an article published last week, Acting FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel set out the items to be considered on the agenda for the FCC’s June monthly open meeting.  One of the items to be considered is a review of two petitions for reconsideration of the FCC’s 2020 Order which changed some of the technical rules for LPFM stations (see our article here).  In announcing this draft reconsideration action, the Chairwoman stated that the resolution of these technical issues would bring the FCC one step closer to opening a window for the filing of applications for new LPFM stations. The last such window was in 2013.  While no dates have been provided, in previous announcements, the FCC has indicated that this window would follow the noncommercial FM window that is scheduled for November of this year.
Continue Reading Low Power FM Back In Front of FCC – Another Proposal to Raise Power and Word of a New Filing Window

As the calendar flips to June, pandemic restrictions across the country continue to loosen, and we inch closer to summer.  Broadcasters could be forgiven for not having regulatory dates and deadlines on the top of their minds.  There are, however, many important dates and deadlines to keep track of during June – we provide details of some of them below.  As always, be sure to stay in touch with your FCC counsel for the dates and deadlines applicable to your operations.

Radio stations in ArizonaIdahoNevadaNew MexicoUtah, and Wyoming and television stations in Michigan and Ohio should be putting the final touches on their license renewal applications, which are due by June 1.  See our article, here, about preparing for license renewal.  These stations must also file with the FCC a Broadcast EEO Program Report (Form 2100, Schedule 396) and, if they are part of a station employment unit (a station or a group of commonly owned stations in the same market that share at least one employee) with 5 or more full-time employees, upload to their public file and post on their station website a link to their Annual EEO Public Inspection File report covering their hiring and employment outreach activities for the twelve months from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.
Continue Reading June Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: License Renewal and EEO Filings, Comments and Replies, Auction Upfront Payments, Streaming Rates Announcement, and More

The FCC last week released its tentative agenda for its April 23 open meeting.  For broadcasters, that meeting will include consideration of the adoption of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (draft NPRM here) looking to broaden obligations for the audio description of television programming (referred to as the Video Description proceeding) – which we will write about in more detail later.  The agenda also includes a Report and Order modifying rules relating to Low Power FM stations, which also addresses the protection of TV channel 6 stations by FM stations (full-power or LPFM) operating in the portion of the FM band reserved for use by noncommercial stations.  The FCC’s draft order in this proceeding is here.  We initially wrote here about these FCC’s proposals when the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the proceeding was adopted last year. Today, we will look at how the FCC has tentatively decided to resolve some of the issues.

One of the most controversial issues was the proposal to allow LPFM stations to operate with a directional antenna.  While some directional operations had been approved by waiver in the past, there was some fear that allowing these antennas more broadly could create the potential for more interference to full-power stations.  As a directional antenna requires greater care in installation and maintenance to ensure that it works as designed, some feared that LPFM operators, usually community groups often without a broadcast background or substantial resources, would not be able to properly operate such facilities.  The FCC has tentatively decided to allow use of directional antenna by LPFM stations. However, it will require LPFM stations installing such antennas to conduct proof of performance measurements to assure that the antenna is operating as designed.  The cost of such antennas, the limited situations in which such antennas will be needed (principally when protecting translators and in border areas), and the additional cost of the proof of performance should, in the FCC’s opinion, help to limit their use to entities that can afford to maintain them properly.
Continue Reading FCC April Meeting to Consider LPFM and Video Captioning – Looking at the LPFM Proposed Order (Including Interference Protections for TV Channel 6)

June brings some standard obligations for broadcasters in a number of states with anniversaries of their license renewal filing, plus the return of an obligation that we have not seen in 4 years- the obligations of radio stations in certain states to file an FCC Form 397 Mid-Term EEO Report. In addition to these routine regulatory deadlines, comment dates on certain FCC proceedings, a new CALM Act deadline, and some decisions for which broadcasters should be watching are among the regulatory actions that we can expect this coming month.

First, let’s look at the standard recurring obligations. By June 1, Annual EEO Public Inspection File Reports need to be placed in the public inspection files (including the online files of TV stations) of stations that are part of a station employment unit with five or more full-time (30 hours per week) employees that are licensed to communities in these states: Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.  As we wrote in more detail yesterday, June 1 also brings the obligation of radio stations that are part of employment units with 11 or more full-time employees, and are located in Maryland, DC, Virginia or West Virginia to file their Form 397, EEO Mid-Term Report. Every other month for the next four years we will see a similar obligation arise for a group of radio or TV stations in states that have celebrated the 4th anniversary of the filing of their license renewal applications.
Continue Reading June Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Public File Reports and Form 397, CALM Act Compliance Obligations, Incentive Auction Actions, Comments on Reg Fees and LPFM Rules, and More