Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from this past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing extensive revisions to its Class A TV, LPTV, and TV translator

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 FTC announced that it will hold a 45-minute webinar on May 14 at 11:00 a.m. ET to provide an

While May is one of those months that does not have any routine, scheduled FCC filing deadlines, there are still a number of regulatory dates and deadlines for broadcasters that are worthy of note.  As detailed below, this includes comment deadlines in several FCC rulemaking proceedings, a response deadline for broadcasters caught in the first random EEO audit of 2024, and the effective date of the FCC’s order allowing FM boosters to originate limited amounts of programming (when interested parties can file for experimental authority to begin such programming).  As always, remember to keep in touch with your legal and regulatory advisors to make sure that you don’t overlook any other regulatory deadlines we may have missed here or ones that are specific to your station.

May 6 is the deadline for radio and television stations listed in the EEO audit notice released by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau last month to upload their audit responses to their online public inspection files.  The FCC randomly audits approximately 5% of all broadcast stations each year regarding their EEO compliance.  Audited stations and their station employment units – which are commonly owned stations serving the same area – must provide to the FCC their last two years of EEO Annual Public File Reports and documentation demonstrating that the stations did everything that is required under the FCC’s EEO rules.  See our article here for more detail on EEO audits and how seriously the FCC takes broadcasters’ EEO obligations.Continue Reading May Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Audit Responses, Comment Deadlines on Emergency Broadcasting Matters, Effective Date for Zonecasting with FM Boosters, LUC Windows, and More

Last week, the FCC approved a long-pending request by GeoBroadcast Solutions to allow FM boosters to originate limited amounts of programming that is different from what is broadcast on the booster’s primary station.  Boosters operate on the same channel as an FM broadcast station and have traditionally been used to fill in holes in an FM station’s coverage area where service that would otherwise be predicted to occur is blocked by terrain obstacles or some other impediment that prevents the main station from reaching a part of the station’s primary service area (in most cases a 60 dBu or 1 mv/m signal) predicted using the FCC’s standard coverage prediction methodology.  As boosters operate on the same channel as the main station, their use has always been limited because of fears of creating interference to the main station’s signal if not properly shielded by terrain or other obstacles.  The service approved last week – called “geocasting” or “zonecasting” – is supposed to allow boosters to originate limited amounts of programming different from the primary station and minimize interference not by terrain, but by other signal timing and coordination methodologies.  The proponent of the system claimed that this would minimize interference and allow stations to originate different commercials, news reports, or other geographically targeted programming in the different parts of a station’s service area to better compete with the geotargeting used by the digital media companies that are now competitors to radio.

Numerous broadcasters, and the NAB, had opposed this effort, as we noted in a recent article on the controversy.  Their fear was that no matter how good the synchronization of these boosters may be, there will still be the potential for some interference.  Just by putting more signals on the FM band in close proximity to each other, some interference naturally will result.  Objections were also raised about the economic impact of the proposals.  With more radio inventory addressing fewer people, there are fears that the implementation of this proposal could drive down radio advertising prices far below the rate now in place.  In addition, there are worries about the impact that geocasting could have in outlying smaller markets – as big market stations could use boosters in outlying parts of their service areas to target advertisers in these areas, taking advertising away from the full power stations serving those outlying communities.  The FCC’s order last week noted that the New Jersey broadcasters expressed particular concern, as New York and Philadelphia stations could use boosters to target advertisers who now buy advertising on New Jersey stations to reach local consumers because rates on the big city stations are cost prohibitive for reaching a targeted audience.  The fear is that these advertisers will now use the boosters of big city stations and abandon their local broadcasters, and that big stations will get bigger and more dominant, at the expense of the local stations doing local service to these outlying areas.Continue Reading FCC Approves Origination of Programming on FM Boosters to Facilitate Geocasting – Targeting Different Ads or Programming to Different Parts of FM Station’s Service Area

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 FCC adopted a decision resolving the FCC’s long-pending proceeding on whether to authorize FM “zonecasting” or “geo-targeting,” permitting FM

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from this past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

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 FCC announced the circulation for Commissioner review and approval of two decisions of interest to broadcasters, signifying that we

This week, Commissioners Carr and Starks issued a joint statement congratulating Chairwoman Rosenworcel for circulating an order to resolve the FCC’s long-pending proceeding about whether to authorize “zonecasting” or “geo-targeting” for FM stations.  Zonecasting would allow FM broadcasters to use FM booster stations operating on the same channel as their main signal, within a station’s existing service area, to originate different programming in different parts of their markets.  Theoretically, this would allow a station to run different commercials in different parts of a station’s service area during the same commercial break. The Commissioners applauded the technical innovation giving broadcasters a choice as to whether they will implement the new system.  While some small broadcasters have supported this proposal, many other broadcasters have vehemently opposed the idea.  Why would so many broadcasters oppose the idea that the Commission seems poised to adopt?

Many of the objections are technical in nature.  Even though the proponents of the system argue that they have minimized any interference that would occur from different FM boosters originating different programming on the same channel as the main station on the same frequency in the same service area, other broadcasters argue that no matter how good the technology, putting more signals on the same channel cannot avoid creating more FM noise.  In today’s electronic world, there are already innumerable sources of potential noise to over-the-air signals, and adding programming on the same channel cannot avoid adding to the problem.Continue Reading FCC Nears Decision on Zonecasting for FM Stations – What’s at Stake?

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 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?