quadrennial review of FCC ownership rules

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 the last two license renewal cycles, more fines have been issued for full-power stations violating the requirement that they

August may be a light month for regulatory dates, as everyone enjoys the end of the summer with many, including Congress, taking the last of their summer vacations.  But there are still dates to which broadcasters should be paying attention.  One that most commercial broadcasters should be anticipating is the order that will set the amount of their Annual Regulatory Fees, to be paid sometime in September before the October 1 start of the federal government’s new fiscal year.  Sometime in August (or possibly in the first days of September), the FCC will make a final determination on the amount of the fees, and then announce the deadlines for the payment of the fees.  As we wrote here, the FCC has proposed to decrease fees for broadcasters from the amounts paid in prior years, but there have been some comments filed in opposition to that proposal. An Order concerning regulatory fees is currently on circulation among FCC Commissioners, so watch for the FCC decision making a final determination on those fees.

August has other routine regulatory deadlines.   August 1 is the deadline for Radio and Television Station Employment Units in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin with 5 or more full-time employees to upload to their online public inspection file their Annual EEO Public File Report. A station employment unit is a station or cluster of commonly controlled stations serving the same general geographic area having at least one common employee.  For employment units with 5 or more full-time employees, the annual report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for the prior year.  A link to the uploaded report must also be included on the home page of each station’s website, if the station has a website. Continue Reading August Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters:  Reg Fee Order, EEO filings, HD Power Increase Proposal, and More

This week brought the news that the Biden administration has nominated Anna Gomez for the open Democratic FCC seat that Gigi Sohn was to fill until she asked that her nomination be withdrawn in March, after a prolonged debate over her confirmation.  Gomez is experienced in government circles, having worked at NTIA (a Department of

Yesterday’s big news across the broadcast press was that Gigi Sohn, who had for well over a year been the nominee of the Biden administration to fill the open seat at the FCC, withdrew her name from consideration.  This may have been in reaction to circulated stories that there were several Democratic Senators who still were not committed to vote for her nomination without whose support she could not have been confirmed.  Until the Biden administration can make another nomination and have that nominee go through the confirmation process in the Senate, the FCC will continue to have two Democratic Commissioners and two Republican ones, potentially stalling action on some rulemaking matters where there is a partisan split on the pending issue.  We wrote in January in our look at the issues pending before the FCC about some of the issues that the FCC could face in 2023.  In light of the seeming extension of the partisan divide on the FCC, we thought that we would again highlight some of the issues likely to be affected by the current state of the Commission. 

But it is first worth noting that, merely because there is a partisan split among the Commissioners, this does not mean that nothing of significance will happen at the FCC.  As we wrote yesterday, the TEGNA merger was designated for hearing, potentially leading to its demise.  This was done not by an action of the Commissioners, but instead by its Media Bureau.  Interpretations of FCC authority in specific cases by the Media Bureau, the Enforcement Bureau or other lower-level bureaus and offices within the Commission can be just as impactful on any specific company as are the big policy decisions made by the Commissioners themselves.  Just as the TEGNA designation could have significant ramifications for broadcast dealmaking if its conclusions are taken to their logical ends, Bureau-level decisions can set day-to-day policy on many issues if the Commission itself cannot make broader decisions through their rulemaking process.Continue Reading Gigi Sohn Withdraws from Consideration for Open Seat as FCC Commissioner – What that Means for Broadcast Regulation

Early this year, we provided our look into the crystal ball to see what was on the FCC’s agenda for broadcasters in  the coming year.  Yesterday, the FCC published in the Federal Register its own list – its Semiannual Regulatory Agenda – listing an inventory of the matters at the FCC awaiting Commission action.  The

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 American Music Fairness Act, proposing to enact a sound recording performance royalty for over-the-air broadcasters, was introduced in

There are normally a host of regulatory obligations at the beginning of February, but because of technical issues with the FCC’s online public file and LMS systems, many February 1 dates, as well as some January regulatory deadlines, have been extended to late February.

Due to technical problems that affected FCC filings throughout the month of January, the FCC last week issued a Public Notice extending the deadlines for all filings in the FCC’s LMS or online public file systems that were due in late January and early February.  The new deadline for these filings is February 28, 2023.  This new deadline applies to TV license renewal applications (including the associated Equal Employment Opportunity Report (Form 2100, Schedule 396)) for television stations, LPTV stations, TV translators and Class A stations in New York and New Jersey (which had been due February 1); Annual Children’s Programming Reports (which had been due on January 30); and EEO Public File Reports for broadcast employment units with 5 or more full-time employees in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma (reports that normally would have had to have been uploaded to a station’s public file by February 1).  Quarterly Issues Programs lists for all broadcast stations had been due to be uploaded to the public file by January 10, but that date was initially extended until January 31, and the deadline has now been further extended to February 28 by last week’s Public Notice. Note that the Public Notice is broad, stating that any public file document due to be uploaded or any FCC application to be filed through LMS must be filed by February 28.  Notwithstanding the extension, licensees should not wait until the last minute to upload documents, as the intermittent problems that have plagued the systems could persist for some time and make meeting even the extended deadline problematic, especially if you wait for the last minute to try to file.  For more details about the extension and about other technical issues with the FCC’s filing systems, see the article we recently published on this subject. 

February 28 is the deadline by which EAS participants must file their EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form One.  Filing instructions are provided in the Public Notice issued by the FCC earlier this month (see also our articles here and here).  All EAS Participants – including Low Power FM stations (LPFM), Class D non-commercial educational FM stations, and EAS Participants that are silent pursuant to a grant of Special Temporary Authority – are required to register and file in ETRS, with the following exceptions:  Analog and digital low power television (LPTV) stations that operate as television broadcast translator stations, FM broadcast booster stations and FM translator stations that entirely rebroadcast the programming of other local FM broadcast stations, and analog and digital broadcast stations that operate as satellites or repeaters of a hub station (or common studio or control point if there is no hub station) and rebroadcast 100 percent of the programming of the hub station (or common studio or control point) are not required to register and file in ETRS.  Carefully read the Public Notice and the form to make sure that all necessary information is properly uploaded.Continue Reading February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Renewal Applications, EEO Reports, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Children’s Programming Reports, Copyright Fees for Webcasters, ETRS Form One, 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.

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.

  • On Tuesday, January 17, the Public Notice that initiates the 2022 quadrennial review of the FCC’s media ownership rules is

It’s a new year, and it’s time to look ahead at what Washington may have in store for broadcasters this year.  The FCC may be slow to tackle some of the big issues on its agenda (like the completion of 2018 Quadrennial Review or any other significant partisan issue) as it still has only four Commissioners – two Democrats and two Republicans.  On controversial issues like changes to the ownership rules, there tends to be a partisan divide.  As the nomination of Gigi Sohn expired at the end of the last Congress in December, the Biden administration was faced with the question of whether to renominate her and hope that the confirmation process moves more quickly this time, or to come up with a new nominee whose credentials will be reviewed by the Senate.  It was announced this week that the administration has decided to renominate her, meaning that her confirmation process will begin anew.  How long that process takes and when the fifth commissioner is seated may well set the tone for what actions the FCC takes in broadcast regulation this year.

Perhaps the most significant issue at the FCC facing broadcasters is the resolution of the 2018 Quadrennial Review to assess the current local ownership rules and determine if they are still in the public interest.  As we wrote last week, the FCC has already started the 2022 review, as required by Congress, even though it has not resolved the issues raised in the 2018 review.  For the radio industry, those issues include the potential relaxation of the local radio ownership rules.  As we have written, some broadcasters and the NAB have pushed the FCC to recognize that the radio industry has significantly changed since the ownership limits were adopted in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and local radio operators need a bigger platform from which to compete with the new digital companies that compete for audience and advertising in local markets.  Other companies have been reluctant to endorse changes – but even many of them recognize that relief from the ownership limits on AM stations would be appropriate.Continue Reading Looking Into the Crystal Ball – What’s Coming in Broadcast Regulation in 2023 From the FCC