While there are a number of regulatory deadlines scheduled for broadcasters in the month of March, there is also the potential for some of those to shift if we have a federal government shutdown.  As of the date of the publication of this article, we do not know if a federal government shutdown will occur this month, with the FCC and FTC currently being funded only through March 8.  As we recently discussed here, the FCC and other government agencies may have to cease all but critical functions if they do not have any residual funds to continue operations during a shutdown.  Therefore, if Congress fails to extend funding of the FCC and other government agencies past March 8, many of the regulatory deadlines discussed below will likely be postponed. If there is a shutdown, and any of the deadlines below apply to you, be sure to research how the shutdown affects your operations.

There are certain technical deadlines likely not affected by any shutdown.  Those include the requirement that, by March 11, broadcasters using Sage EAS equipment implement the requirement that, when a station receives an over-the-air EAS alert, it must wait at least 10 seconds to determine if a CAP alert has been sent through the IPAWS system and, if it has, the station should rebroadcast that internet-delivered CAP alert rather than the one received over the air.  We wrote more about that requirement on our Broadcast Law Blog, here. For stations using other EAS equipment, the deadline was December 12, 2023 to implement this requirement but as Sage was delayed in pushing out its equipment update, users of that equipment were given until March 11 to comply with this requirement. Continue Reading March Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Sage EAS Compliance Deadline, Effective Dates of New FCC Rules, Comment Deadlines, Daylight Savings Time, Political Windows, and More

The new year brings a series of noteworthy regulatory deadlines for broadcasters in January.  As always, broadcasters should consult with their own attorneys and advisors to make sure that they are aware of and ready to act on any other deadlines that are not listed below.

Congress still has not passed budget bills for the fiscal year that started on October 1, and some of the “continuing resolutions” to fund the federal government at last year’s levels run out on January 19, with the FCC’s budget set to expire on February 2.  Thus, at least a partial government shutdown may well occur if Congress fails to act this month.  As we previously discussed here and here, if a government shutdown does occur, some government agencies may have to cease all but critical functions if they do not have any residual funds to continue operations.  If no funding is approved, the FCC will announce how any shutdown will affect it, including whether it has any residual funds to keep operating beyond any general funding deadline.  Watch Congressional actions and any FCC announcements to see how any deadlines that apply to your station will be affected by the funding deadline.

With those concerns in mind, let’s look at some of the specific dates and deadlines for broadcasters in January.  Beginning January 1, television stations affiliated with the Top 4 Networks and operating in Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMAs) 91 through 100 will be added to the list of markets that are subject to the FCC’s audio description rules.  The DMAs where the rules become effective on January 1 are:  El Paso (Las Cruces), Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg, Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, Burlington-Plattsburgh, Baton Rouge, Jackson, MS, Fort-Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Boise, South Bend-Elkhart, and Myrtle Beach-Florence – in addition to Chattanooga and Charleston, SC, which were previously in DMAs 92 and 91, respectively, but are now in DMAs 84 and 88.  We reported here on the FCC’s recent reminder that these new markets will be subject to the audio description requirements as of January 1.  TV stations associated with the Top 4 networks in these markets are required to provide audio description for 50 hours of programming per calendar quarter, either during prime time or in children’s programming, and 37.5 additional hours of audio description per calendar quarter between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. local time, on each programming stream that carries one of the top four commercial television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC). Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Expansion of Audio Description Requirements, Music Royalty Cost of Living Increases, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, Childrens Television Programming Reporting, Political Windows, and More

As the holiday season comes to an end and 2022 comes into focus, broadcasters have several dates and deadlines to keep up with in January and early February.  We have noted below some of the important dates you should be tracking.  However, as always, stay in touch with your station’s lawyers and other regulatory advisors for the dates applicable to your operations.  We wish you a happy, healthy, and successful New Year – and remembering to track important regulatory dates will help you  achieve those ends.

Let’s start with some of the annual dates that always fall in January.  By January 10, full-power radio, TV, and Class A licensees should have their quarterly issues/programs lists uploaded to their online public file.  The lists are meant to identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station broadcast in October, November, and December that addressed those issues.  Prepare the lists carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community.  See our post here for more on this obligation.
Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Issues/Programs Lists; Digital LPTV Deadline; Audio Description Expansion; Children’s Programming, Webcasting Royalties; NCE FM Settlement Window; and More

While the off-year elections of 2011 are not yet history, the Lowest Unit Rate period for the 2012 Presidential election will soon be upon many stations in the early primary and caucus states.  Last week, Bobby Baker, the head of the FCC’s Office of Political Programming, and I conducted a webinar for 13 state broadcast associations to provide a refresher on the political broadcasting obligations of broadcasters.  The webinar covered all the basics of the political broadcasting rules – including reasonable access, equal opportunities, lowest unit rates, the public file and sponsorship ID obligations, and the issues of potential liability of broadcasters for political advertising not bought by candidates but by PACs, unions and other interest groupsPowerPoint slides from the presentation are available here, and the video of the presentation can be accessed here by members of the state associations that were involved.  Additional information about the FCC’s political broadcasting rules can be found in our Davis Wright Tremaine Guide to Political Broadcasting.

One particular issue came up in the webinar that warrants additional discussion and clarification. Rate issues are always the most difficult to explain, and the questions concerning package rates are among the most confusing.  The FCC has said that stations cannot force a candidate to purchase a package of spots containing multiple ads of different classes.  Instead, stations must break up the price of packages into their constituent spots and, if the package spots are running during a Lowest Unit Charge period (45 days before a primary or Presidential caucus or 60 days before a general election), determine if the spots in that package affect the lowest unit rates of the classes of time represented by advertising spots contained in the package.  For instance, if you sell a package of 10 morning drive spots with a bonus of 2 overnight spots on your radio station for $100, you need to break up the package price and allocate it to the spots from the two classes of time in the package – the morning drive and the overnight spots. So some of that $100 package price gets applied to the 10 morning drive spots (say, for example, $96) and the rest (for example, $4) is assigned as the value of the 2 overnight spots.  Thus, in this package using this allocation, the unit rate for morning drive spots would be $9.60, and the unit rate for overnights would be $2.  You then take these rates, and see if you have sold spots for these classes of advertising time at lower rates.  If so, the package has no effect on your LUR.  If not, the spots in the package may reduce the LUR for one or both classes of time.  In such cases, the determination of which classes’ LUC will be lowered may be affected by the allocation of the package price that you make.Continue Reading A Webinar Refresher on the FCC’s Political Broadcasting Rules – Computing Lowest Unit Rates in Spots Sold as Part of Advertising Packages