sponsorship identification for foreign government programming

In October 2022, I noted in an article that many broadcasters were totally confused by the FCC’s rules requiring that they seek certifications as to whether or not a foreign government is behind anyone buying programming time on a broadcast station.  In our 2022 article, we noted that, even though broadcasters did not fully understand the existing rule, the FCC was considering expanding that requirement to require use of a specific form to obtain these certifications from program buyers.  From notices filed with the FCC recently, it appears that there have been several meetings with the Commission and representatives of the broadcasting community about these proposed enhanced certifications, making it appear that the FCC is nearing a decision.  It appears that the new certifications, if adopted, will be very cumbersome, particularly for the unsophisticated program buyers who are likely to be many of the buyers of program time on small market stations.  These buyers are likely to find the certification process somewhat intimidating, and may even be scared off from buying any broadcast programming time as a result.  We thought we should take another look at what is already required and what is now being proposed.

Currently, the certifications that broadcasters must obtain from a program buyer must indicate that the programmer is not a “foreign government entity,” a term that includes any foreign government or foreign-government owned entity, an agent of a foreign government, or someone who has been paid by a foreign government to produce the program.  As we noted (see our articles here and here), the rules requiring these certifications went into effect on March 15, 2022 for any new agreements effective after that date, and September 15, 2022 for obtaining certifications from programmers who were already on the air as of March 15.  They cover not only those who buy program time on a broadcast station, but also those that provide program time free to broadcasters with the understanding that the programming will be aired.  The certifications do not cover programming that the broadcaster buys (either for money or through barter – including by giving the programming supplier advertising time that the programmer can resell in exchange for the programming).  And they are not required for spot advertising buys. Continue Reading FCC Still Reviewing Plan to Expand Broadcasters’ Obligations to Obtain Certifications from All Program Buyers on their Connection to Foreign Governments – What is Being Proposed? 

A new year – and our annual opportunity to pull out the crystal ball and look at the legal issues that will be facing broadcasters in the new year.  We’ve already published our 2024 Broadcasters Calendar and, as we noted before the holidays, it highlights the many lowest unit rate windows for the November election.  With a heavily contested election almost upon us, there may be calls on the FCC to modify regulations affecting political broadcasting or for more monitoring of broadcasters’ online public files, which caused so many issues in recent years (see for instance, our posts here and here).  Even if there are no FCC proceedings that deal with the rules for political broadcasting, the election will be watched by all broadcasters, and all Americans, to see the direction in which the country will head for the next four years.  With that election looming, 2024 may be a very active year in regulation as there traditionally is significant post-election turnover at the FCC no matter which party wins.  With that turnover in mind, we may see Commissioners looking to cement their regulatory legacies in the coming year.

Last year, we noted the number of pending issues at the FCC that had not been resolved because of the partisan deadlock on the Commission while the nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the one vacant seat was stalled in the Senate.  That deadlock was finally overcome by her withdrawal from consideration and the subsequent nomination and confirmation of Anna Gomez, who was sworn in as a Commissioner in late September.  Since then, the FCC has acted on several long-pending priorities, including the adoption of open internet rules and, for broadcasters, last week’s adoption of an Order resolving the 2018 Quadrennial Review of the local broadcast ownership rules (see our summary of that action here). Continue Reading Gazing into the Crystal Ball at Legal and Policy Issues for Broadcasters in 2024 – Part I: What to Expect From the FCC

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

The Senate this week approved Anna Gomez for the open Democratic FCC seat that has been vacant since the start of the Biden Administration.  As we wrote in May when the President first nominated her, Gomez is experienced in government circles, having worked at NTIA (a Department of Commerce agency dealing with federal spectrum use and other communications matters) and recently at the State Department preparing for international meetings about communications issues.  She also has a history in private law firm practice. 

Together with her nomination, the President renominated Commissioners Starks and Carr for new terms as Commissioners, but those nominations remain pending – not having been approved this week with the Gomez nomination.  Democratic Commissioner Starks’s term has already expired but he continues to serve under the allowable one-year carry-over which ends at the beginning of January 2024.  Republican Commissioner Carr’s term will expire at the end of this year, but he would be able to serve through the end of 2024 if his renomination is not confirmed.  There is some speculation that these nominations will be packaged with other pending nominations for positions at other government agencies to avoid having the FCC return to a partisan stalemate again in January if the Starks’ renomination is not approved by then. Continue Reading And Then There Were Five – Senate Approves Anna Gomez as Fifth FCC Commissioner – What Broadcast Issues Could a Full FCC Consider? 

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.

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

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

The new year brings a series of regulatory deadlines in January and a February 1 license renewal deadline that broadcasters should take note of.  As in 2022, the FCC will remain vigilant in making sure that its deadlines are met, so the following items should not be overlooked or left until the last minute.

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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.

  • By a Public Notice issued on December 15, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau told broadcasters to submit