September is one of those unusual months, where there are no regular filing dates for EEO public inspection file reports, quarterly issues programs lists or children’s television reports.  With the unusual start to the month with Labor Day being so late, and the lack of routine deadlines, we didn’t get our usual monthly highlights of upcoming regulatory dates posted as the month began.  While we didn’t do it early, we actually have not missed the many regulatory deadlines and important dates about which broadcasters need to take note this month.

Several are of particular importance for virtually all broadcasters.  As we wrote here and here, Annual Regulatory Fees for all commercial broadcasters are due by September 27.  Any commercial broadcaster that cumulatively owes more than $500 must file its fees by that date – and the fee filing system is already open.  Note that most noncommercial entities are excused from fee filings.
Continue Reading September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: EAS Test, Reg Fees, Lowest Unit Rates, Incentive Auction Stage 2

September 29 will be a big day for broadcasters and other media companies when the FCC holds its next open meeting. In the tentative agenda for that meeting released on Thursday, the FCC identified several issues that deal with the media including two big items on video issues – the decision as to what to do about the Commission’s proposals to open the cable set top box to competing systems, and a new proposal designed to promote sources of independent programming for video distributors. In addition to these two items, the FCC also says that it will resolve the proposals to make the FCC’s foreign ownership rules for broadcasting more like those applicable to non-broadcast companies, easing some of the procedural restrictions that made it difficult for non-US investors to become owners of US broadcast stations.

The set top box debate is perhaps the debate that has garnered the most publicity, with the Commission proposing to allow more companies to offer a means to access cable and satellite TV programming – perhaps enabling the use of new apps to access and inventory that programming. Content owners and program distributors have worried about security issues with opening programming to access on a myriad of devices, and have also been concerned that the loosening of these restrictions could interfere with contractual rights limiting access to certain programs to certain devices and distribution channels. The FCC Chairman yesterday released this fact sheet about the proposal setting out some specifics of the proposal that will seemingly be voted on at the late September meeting, and the Chairman published this op-ed article in the LA Times explaining what he is trying to do. The matter is sure to remain controversial right through the late-September meeting, and perhaps after the decision as well.
Continue Reading September FCC Meeting To Be a Big One for Media Companies – Set Top Boxes, Foreign Ownership of Broadcast Stations and Promotion of Independent Programming

May is one of those off months in which there are not the kind of routine filings that pop up in most other months – no EEO Public File Reports, no quarterly issues programs lists or children’s television reports, no Biennial Ownership Reports for noncommercial stations (which will soon disappear anyway when noncommercial stations transition to the same biennial report deadline as commercial broadcasters – see our articles here and here). Clearly, the big event for TV will be the likely start of the bidding in the “reverse auction” part of the TV incentive auction. For radio, the big activity will be around the continuing window for AM stations to buy FM translators to move to their communities (see our article here). And, as we wrote in our Broadcasters Calendar here, there are also a number of lowest unit rate windows in the states in which the final Presidential primaries are being held.

There are not even that many comment dates in proceedings of importance to broadcasters. Perhaps the most important is the preliminary comments on the proposed ATSC 3.0 transmission standard for the next generation of television (see our articles here and here). These initial comments are due on May 26.
Continue Reading May Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Incentive Auction, Comments on EAS, ATSC 3.0 and Set Top Boxes

Only a day after asking over-the-air television broadcasters to justify their existence and why some or all of their spectrum should not be reclaimed by the FCC to be used for wireless broadband (and giving interested parties only until December 21 to not only justify their existence, but also to come up with technical means by which the spectrum could be more efficiently used, business plans for their future use of the spectrum, and a survey of the competing needs for that spectrum – see more detail below), the FCC issued another request for comments, asking how current video devices could be made more accommodating to Internet video.  These comments, also due on December 21, seemingly bring consumer electronics manufacturers and multi-channel video providers into the FCC’s rapidly-expanding evaluation of the video industry and its future.  As the comments filed in connection with these two requests will no doubt lead to proposals to be included in the FCC’s February report to Congress on strategies for broadband deployment, these quickly prepared filings could help determine the future of the video industry for the foreseeable future.

The new proceeding, looking for a "plug and play" model of consumer video devices that can access conventional television delivery systems and the Internet, starts with the statement that Internet video is "tremendously popular" and a prediction that, as it expands, new applications for such video will be found.  The Commission says that it sees Internet video as one way of spurring broadband adoption.  How to best promote the plug and play model for consumer video devices that can access the Internet is the crux of the comments that the FCC seeks.  The Commission first asks whether there are currently video devices that allow televisions to view not only the programming provided by multichannel video providers (e.g. cable and satellite), but also Internet video that may be available through an Internet service provided by that same MVPD, stating that it was not aware of such devices.  Next, the Commission asks what would be necessary to develop such devices, and what rules the Commission could adopt to possibly require capabilities in set top boxes and other devices to provide this universal access to video programming of all sorts.  The third area of inquiry from the Commission asks about standards that could be adopted to make Internet video and video from other sources interact with all other home audio and video equipment, including DVRs, to bring about the "digital living room."  And finally the Commission asks what stands in the way of plug and play devices that will work with all networks by which video is delivered.


Continue Reading In Less Than 3 Weeks, Let’s Provide Detailed Analysis on Fundamentally Changing the Television Industry – Comments Sought on Encouraging Internet Video in Addition to Repurposing TV Spectrum