time brokerage agreements

The FCC this week released its draft order proposing to eliminate the requirement that broadcasters file certain contracts relating to ownership and control with the Commission. Instead, the disclosure of these documents will be made simply by observing the current requirement that stations either (1) make those documents available in the station’s online public file, or (2) make available a list of the required documents in the online public file with the documents themselves provided within 7 days to anyone who requests them, including the FCC. Certain other clarifications about the disclosure of such documents were contained in the draft order, which is expected to be adopted at the FCC meeting on October 23.

Among the documents that are required to be in the public file are those showing the governance of the license entity (e.g., articles of incorporation and bylaws); options and other documents related to future ownership rights; joint sales and time brokerage agreements; and television network affiliation agreements.   In the draft order, the FCC requires that such documents be included in the online public file (either in full or by inclusion on the list) within 30 days of execution, or within 30 days of any amendment or other modification of the agreement. If only a list of the documents is provided in the file, all the information that is required on an Ownership Report, where such documents are listed, would be required – including the name of the parties involved and the execution and expiration dates of the agreements.
Continue Reading FCC Releases Draft Order to Eliminate Broadcasters’ Obligations to File Contracts, Relying on Online Public File to Make Documents Available

$15,000 per station was the cost of a broadcast licensee’s failure to adequately supervise two stations of which he was the licensee, but which were operated pursuant to time brokerage agreements or LMAs. Like many stations in these tough economic times, this licensee decided to allow a third party to provide the bulk of the programming and retain the bulk of the sales revenues, in exchange for a payment. However, as the licensee remained the licensee, he was required to maintain and exercise control over the station’s operations, and maintain a meaningful staff presence at the station. In reviewing the operations of these stations, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau in recent decisions (here and here) concluded that the adequacy of that control was insufficient – providing a warning to other station licensees operating under LMA agreements that they must maintain operational control over the stations that they own.

The FCC has long said that a licensee must maintain a meaningful staff presence at a station, even if the station receives the vast majority of its programming from some other source – whether that is a network or programming provided under an LMA. Meaningful presence has required that at least two employees at the station be employed by the licensee, one of whom must be managerial and perform no services for the broker providing the programming under the LMA. This case makes clear that these required licensee employees must be physically present at the station’s main studio on a regular day to day basis – they cannot be located at some distant location supervising the station remotely or only periodically present at the main studio. Failure to have the station’s main studio manned by the required personnel in and of itself accounted for $7000 of the fine in this case.


Continue Reading FCC Issues $15,000 Fines For Unauthorized Transfer of Control and Main Studio Staffing Violations for LMA Done Wrong

The FCC today issued the long-awaited text of its decision on Digital Audio radio – the so-called IBOC system.  As we have written, while adopted at its March meeting, the text of the decision has been missing in action.  With the release of the decision, which is available here, the effective date of the new rules can be set in the near future – 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.  With the Order, the Commission also released its Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, addressing a host of new issues – some not confined to digital radio, but instead affecting the obligations of all radio operations.

The text provides the details for many of the actions that were announced at the March meeting, including authorizing the operation of AM stations in a digital mode at night, and the elimination of the requirements that stations ask permission for experimental operations before commencing multicast operations.  The Order also permits the use of dual antennas – one to be used solely for digital use – upon notification to the FCC.  In addition, the order addresses several other matters not discussed at the meeting, as set forth below. 


Continue Reading FCC Issues Rules on Digital Radio – With Some Surprises that Could Eventually Impact Analog Operations