November is a month where there are no regularly scheduled regulatory deadlines.  But the big question for broadcasters may be whether the FCC will continue to function throughout the month. The last-minute continuing resolution passed by Congress on September 30 extended federal government funding through November 17 – which again raises the possibility of a federal government shutdown beginning in late November if Congress does not approve new funding measures for Fiscal Year 2024 by that date.  As we discussed in our previous article regarding October Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters, if a government shutdown does occur, 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.  In late September, the FCC announced that it had sufficient leftover funds to keep operating for about two weeks after a shutdown.  We do not know if those funds are still available, so we need to be watching to see what happens between now and November 17.

Assuming that there is no shutdown, there are a number of other dates that broadcasters should be watching.  All broadcasters need to remember that November 20 is the deadline to file their ETRS Form Three to provide more detailed information regarding their stations’ performance during the October 4 Nationwide EAS Test.  See our article here regarding this year’s EAS test and broadcasters’ reporting obligations.  This deadline is important for many reasons – not just to avoid potential penalties for missing the filing deadline, but also to demonstrate broadcasters’ commitment to the emergency communications system as broadcasters’ role in that system is the principal reason for Congress to be presently considering the bill to require AM radio in every car.  See our article here for more on the importance of accurate reporting. Continue Reading November Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EAS ETRS Form 3, 12.5 GHz Registrations, C-Band Transition Comment Deadline, a Possible Government Shutdown, and More

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

  • The re-nominations of FCC Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Brendan Carr were approved by the Senate late the week before last

On paper, this October appears to be a busy month for regulatory deadlines.  But the lack of congressional action to fund the federal government for the coming year (or “continuing resolutions” adopted to allow government agencies to function at their current levels) is making a federal government shutdown appear inevitable.  If a government shutdown does occur, the FCC, the FTC, and the Copyright Office may also shutdown – which, as with previous shutdowns, may result in many of the regulatory deadlines discussed below being delayed. 

According to the August 2023 FCC Shutdown Plan, if a potential lapse in appropriations is imminent, the FCC will determine whether and for how long prior year funds will be made available to continue all agency operations during a lapse.  To date, however, the FCC has not stated whether it plans to remain open – and if so, for how long – if a government shutdown does occur.  Details from the FCC and other agencies should be released shortly given the shutdown that may well occur this weekend. 

Until we receive such guidance, the tentative October regulatory deadlines for broadcasters are provided below.  Even if the government does shut down, these dates will likely be rescheduled for soon after the funding issue is resolved.  So, let’s look at the upcoming deadlines. Continue Reading October Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Nationwide EAS Test, Annual EEO Public File Reports, Retransmission Consent Elections, Biennial Ownership Reports, and More (If the Government is Open)

On the anniversary of September 11, it seems appropriate to highlight the upcoming October 4 Nationwide Test of the EAS system.  While EAS was not activated during the September 11 emergency, the events of that date have provided much impetus for federal emergency authorities to strengthen the EAS system.  Part of that effort has been the regular testing of the Nationwide EAS alert system.  As we wrote in August, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has scheduled a nationwide EAS test for October 4, 2023, at approximately 2:20 pm EDT, using the Internet-based Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) (with a back-up date of October 11 if necessary).  In a Public Notice released in August, the FCC set out steps that broadcasters should take to prepare for that test.

Just last week, the FCC’s  Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a further Public Notice to remind Emergency Alert System participants of their obligation to ensure that EAS alerts are accessible to persons with disabilities.  For TV stations, to be visually accessible, the EAS text must be displayed as follows:

  • At the top of the television screen or where it will not interfere with other visual messages (e.g., closed captioning),
  • In a manner (i.e., font size, color, contrast, location, and speed) that is readily readable and understandable (see below),
  • Without overlapping lines or extending beyond the viewable display (except for video crawls that intentionally scroll on and off the screen),
  • In full at least once during any EAS message. Text should scroll at a speed that allows viewers to read the crawl as if they were going to read it aloud, and
  • The background and text colors should sufficiently contrast to allow for readability. For example, a bright green background with white text may not provide sufficient contrast. Green and red should also be avoided as viewers who are color blind have difficulty seeing these colors.

In addition, the audio portion of an EAS message must be played in full at least once to ensure it is accessible to viewers who are blind or have low vision and should be spoken at a pace that allows for a listener to understand the content. Continue Reading Reminder: September 15 Deadline for Updating ETRS Form One in Preparation for Nationwide EAS Test, and an FCC Notice on the Accessibility of EAS Messages

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past two weeks (including events that occurred during our hiatus for the Labor Day holiday), with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The Senate approved Anna Gomez to be

On the surface, September appears to have few scheduled regulatory filing dates and deadlines.  But it is period in which many broadcasters will be busy with deadlines that occur in early October and into the rest of the Fall.  TV stations should be finishing their decision-making on must-carry/retransmission consent elections, which need to be in their public files by October 2 (as the 1st is a holiday).  In preparation for the early November filing window for new LPFM stations (see our article here), potential applicants should be determining if a station can technically “fit” in their area without prohibited shortspacings to other stations; if one can be located in their area, they need to locate a transmitter site; and they need to take all the steps other steps needed to be ready to file their application in the early November window.  One of the first regulatory dates of note in September is the freeze on FM translator modification applications that goes into effect on September 1 in anticipation of the LPFM window.  The freeze will be in effect at least through the end of the LPFM filing window on November 8. 

September will also bring the date for the filing of annual regulatory fees by commercial stations.  We recently noted that the FCC earlier this month released its Report and Order setting the amount of the annual regulatory fees that broadcasters must pay, but the Commission has not yet followed up on that Order by issuing a Public Notice setting the dates for payment.  As these payments must be made before the federal government’s October 1 start of the new fiscal year, we expect that Public Notice any day.  We also expect that, as in the past, the FCC’s Media Bureau will release a fee filing guide for the broadcast services.  Licensees should continue to monitor this item closely so that they are ready to pay those fees in a window that will open in September, as the failure to timely pay regulatory fees will result in substantial penalties.Continue Reading September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Regulatory Fees, HD Radio Power Increase Comments, EAS Filings, and Preparation for Many October Deadlines  

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

  • FEMA and the FCC announced that this year’s Nationwide EAS Test is scheduled for October 4, 2023 (with a back-up

FEMA and the FCC announced that this year’s Nationwide EAS Test is scheduled for October 4, 2023 (with a back-up date of October 11 in case there is a real or threatened event that occurs around October 4).  FEMA will transmit the nationwide test of the EAS at 2:20 pm EDT on October 4, 2023 using the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), the Internet-delivered warning system that has been required for broadcasters for about a dozen years. The test will be disseminated in English and Spanish as a Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) message using the Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System (NPT) code.  FEMA issued a Release announcing the test.  The FCC issued a much more extensive Public Notice which includes a list of recommended steps that broadcasters should take to prepare for the alert, and a reminder for broadcasters to be sure that their information in the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) is accurate and up-to-date. 

While the steps recommended by the FCC to prepare for the test are all somewhat obvious, they should still be reviewed by broadcasters to make sure that they have not overlooked anything that can enhance their preparation for the test.  Among the recommendations from the FCC are that the broadcaster review their role in their state’s EAS plan, and make sure that their equipment and software has been updated to the most current versions. The FCC also suggests making sure the EAS clock on station EAS equipment is synchronized with the official time used by the National Institute of Standards and Technology which is used by the IPAWS system.  Having an accessible EAS Official Handbook and reviewing the handbook for instructions on the operation of the EAS system is also on the FCC’s list.Continue Reading Nationwide EAS Test Set for October 4 – Start Your Preparations Now

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

  • In a Public Notice released late on Friday, the FCC’s Media Bureau extended the deadline for the upload of Quarterly