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

In a very busy week, 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 Federal Trade Commission and seven state Attorneys General announced a settlement with Google LLC and iHeart Media, Inc. over allegations that iHeart radio stations aired thousands of deceptive endorsements for Google Pixel 4 phones by radio personalities who had never used the phone.  The FTC’s complaint alleges that in 2019, Google hired iHeart and 11 other radio broadcast companies to have their on-air personalities record and broadcast endorsements of the Pixel 4 phone, but did not provide the on-air personalities with the phone that they were endorsing.  Google provided scripts for the on-air personalities to record, which included lines such as “It’s my favorite phone camera out there” and “I’ve been taking studio-like photos of everything,” despite these DJs never having used the phone.  The deceptive endorsements aired over 28,000 times across ten major markets from October 2019 to March 2020.  As part of the settlement, subject to approval by the courts, Google will pay approximately $9 million and iHeart will pay approximately $400,000 to the states that were part of the agreement.  The settlement also imposes substantial paperwork and administrative burdens by requiring both companies to submit annual compliance reports for a period of years (10 years in the case of iHeart), and create and retain financial and other records (in the case of iHeart, the records must be created for a period of ten years and retained for five years).
    • This case is a reminder that stations must ensure that their on-air talent have at least some familiarity with any product they endorse, particularly where on-air scripts suggest that they have actually used the product.  Stations should not assume that talent know the relevant rules – they more likely will just read whatever is handed to them without understanding the potential legal risk for the station, which, as demonstrated in this case, could be significant.

Continue Reading This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: November 26 to December 2 , 2022

Until recently, to many in the industry, HD radio seemed to be an afterthought – maybe useful in feeding analog translators, but otherwise not very accessible to the public.  But there is now more and more interest in HD radio given the increased inclusion of receivers for this digital service as standard equipment in a majority of new cars.  This means that consumers have ready access to programming on digital FM subchannels that the technology allows, plus the digital sound quality that HD radio provides and the auxiliary data services that can be conveyed along with the audio programming.  This week, the FCC’s Media Bureau issued a Public Notice asking for comments on two technical proposals to enhance service to the public while minimizing interference that the service might otherwise cause to nearby adjacent-channel stations.

Comments are sought on a proposal by the National Association of Broadcasters and Xperi, Inc. (which acquired iBiquity, the company that developed the HD Radio technology) seeking adoption of an updated formula for computing the power level of the “sidebands” on which the HD service resides. The request also asks that the proposal be combined with a 2019 request that FM stations be allowed to operate an HD service with “asymmetric sidebands” without having to seek experimental authority.  What do these requests mean and why might they be important?
Continue Reading FCC Seeks Comments on HD Radio Technical Standards – Could a Power Increase for Digital FM Radio Be Coming?

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.