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