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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Television


ATSC 3.0, Next Gen TV, Inches Closer to Reality with FCC Simulcasting Rules Becoming Effective

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Thu 19 Jul 2018 4:21 pm

This week, the approval of the Office of Management and Budget of FCC rules imposing new paperwork burdens relating to simulcasting of a TV station’s primary signal on a host station when it converts to the new ATSC 3.0 next generation TV transmission system was announced in the Federal Register. The primary rules for ATSC 3.0 were adopted last year, and became effective in March 2018 (see our post here). But the rules requiring an FCC application before commencing the simulcast of the primary signal on the host station as well as over the new ATSC 3.0 signal, the notifications necessary to TV viewers and MVPDs, and other filing obligations required OMB approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act before they could become effective, and that approval has now been obtained. But this does not mean that Next Gen TV stations will be popping up everywhere immediately.

The FCC this week issued a Public Notice announcing the approval of these paperwork requirements, but indicating that it is not yet accepting applications for stations proposing to operate with the ATSC 3.0 standard. The FCC is still preparing a new form for ATSC 3.0 stations to file, and getting its LMS filing system ready to accept all of the newly required FCC filings associated with the conversion. A subsequent public notice will be released when the FCC is ready to accept ATSC 3.0 applications – at some undetermined time in the future, likely at some point in 2019. The Public Notice does offer the option for stations ready to operate with the new system to request experimental authority to do so (several such requests have been filed and granted for tests by commercial and noncommercial stations). But, until the new forms are ready, and until more ATSC 3.0-capable receivers are available to consumers, a mass conversion of stations to the new transmission standard will have to wait.

Now for a lampshade solo: how the Radiophonic Workshop built the future of sound

Delivered... Pascal Wyse | Scene | Wed 18 Jul 2018 6:00 am

They chased bees, raided junkyards and banged household objects. Now, half a century on, the Radiophonic Workshop are festival material. Meet the sound effect visionaries whose jobs came with a health warning

In 1957, just before the broadcast of a radio show called Private Dreams and Public Nightmares, a warning was sent to BBC engineers. “Don’t attempt to alter anything that sounds strange,” it said. “It’s meant to sound that way.” The BBC was also worried about the public. Donald McWhinnie, the programme’s maker, made an explanatory statement, ending with the cheerful signoff: “One thought does occur – would it not be more illuminating to play the whole thing backwards?”

Radiophonic sound was now in the public domain. A year later, to the bewilderment of many, the BBC dedicated a whole workshop to this avant-garde stuff, even giving it a home in an old ice rink: Maida Vale Studios. Years later, the Queen, shaking hands with the Workshop’s creator, Desmond Briscoe, would confirm its universal success with the words: “Ah yes, Doctor Who.”

A doctor advised that that no one should work there for more than three months – for the sake of their sanity

It was a place where you could bump into Karlheinz Stockhausen and Lulu in the same canteen queue

Continue reading...

FCC Requires Updating By Broadcasters of EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form One By August 27

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 11 Jul 2018 4:44 pm

The FCC recently released a Public Notice reminding all EAS participants that they need to file ETRS Form One by August 27, 2018. This form needs to be filed by all radio and TV stations, including LPFM and LPTV stations (unless those LPTV stations simply act as a translator for another station). While the FCC has not announced another nationwide EAS test for this year, the FCC still requires that the form be updated on a yearly basis – with a separate Form One being filed for each encoder, decoder, or combined unit used by any station or cluster.

The Public Notice provides information about where to file the form, and also links to this help page on the FCC website that provides information about completing the form. These Frequently Asked Questions are also helpful. They note the information that needs to be submitted in the ETRS form, including the geographic coordinates of the station (with latitude and longitude in NAD83), and various information about the station’s “designation”, monitoring assignments and “geographic zone” – all information that should be set out in the state EAS plan for the state in which the station is located. As it may take some time to locate all of the required information to make sure that any station’s Form One is current and accurate, stations should not delay in beginning to work on this form.

July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and Children’s Television Reports, EAS Reform, LPFM and FM Translators, C Band Earth Stations and More

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Thu 28 Jun 2018 10:16 pm

July brings the obligation for each full-power broadcaster to add a new Quarterly Issues Programs List to their online public inspection file. These reports, summarizing the issues facing each station’s community of license in the prior three months and the programs broadcast by the station to address those issues, must be added to the public file by July 10. As we wrote here, these reports are very important – as they are the only documents legally required by the FCC to show how a station served the public interest. With the online file, these reports can be reviewed by anyone with an Internet connection at any time, which could be particularly concerning for any station that does not meet the filing deadline, especially with license renewals beginning again next year.

Also to be filed with the FCC by July 10, by full-power and Class A TV stations, are Quarterly Children’s Television Reports. While the FCC announced last week that it will be considering a rulemaking proposal at its July meeting to potentially change the rules (see its proposed Notice of Proposed Rulemaking here), for now the requirements remain in place obligating each station to broadcast 3 weekly hours of programming designed to meet the educational and informational needs of children for each free program stream transmitted by the station. Also, certifications need to be included in each station’s online public file demonstrating that the station has complied with the rules limiting the amount of commercialization during children’s television programs.

In addition to considering the Children’s Television Rules at its July 12th meeting, the FCC will also be looking at how it can modify its EAS system to avoid the kinds of erroneous emergency messages that have been transmitted in recent months – most notably the alert for a missile attack on Hawaii a few months ago. The FCC will adopt certain changes immediately, as well as advancing additional proposals for rule changes. The draft FCC order on EAS changes is available here out here.

The FCC is also planning to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (draft here) considering the potential for repurposing for wireless users some or all of the C Band, currently used by broadcasters for earth stations to receive satellite-delivered programming. The FCC had given broadcasters the opportunity until July18 to register the earth stations that were operating in that band as of April 19, 2018 so that the FCC could take these existing operations into account if a repurposing proposal is ultimately adopted. The FCC has now extended broadcaster’s registration deadline to October 17 (see extension order here). Earth stations not registered by that deadline will not be protected or entitled to any consideration if repurposing of the band takes place.

Due on July 20th are comments on a petition to change the interference standards that apply to LPFM stations (proposing a change from the current mileage separation requirements to a system like FM translators, based on interference considerations) and to allow some of those stations to operate with higher power. While this is only a preliminary petition asking the FCC to put out a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the issue, preliminary comments on these issues may be important in guiding the FCC on whether to proceed with a further rulemaking. The FCC notice of the acceptance of that rulemaking proposal is here.

Comments on the FCC’s proposal for changing the methodology for addressing complaints of interference from translators to full-power FM stations were due on July 6 (see our articles here and here). Earlier this week, the FCC granted a request for a one-month extension of those comments. They are now due August 6. We are also expecting a Federal Register notice soon setting comment dates in the FCC’s notice of inquiry as to whether it should create a new C4 class of FM stations (see our summary here).

So, even in the summer doldrums, there are a number of FCC proceedings that are ongoing. As we always warn, these are but some of the issues – always check with your own counsel for other dates of relevance to your station.

12 Years of the Broadcast Law Blog – Where We Have Been and What We Are Looking at Next

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Fri 1 Jun 2018 4:19 pm

In 10 days, we’ll mark the 12th anniversary of my first post welcoming readers to this Blog.  I’d like to thank all of you who read the blog, and the many of you who have had nice words to say about its contents over the years.  In the dozen years that the blog has been active, our audience has grown dramatically.  In fact, I’m amazed by all the different groups of readers – broadcasters and employees of digital media companies, attorneys and members of the financial community, journalists, regulators and many students and educators. Because of all the encouragement that I have received from readers, I keep going, hopefully providing you all with some valuable information along the way.

I want to thank those who have supported me in being able to bring this blog to you.  My old firm, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP helped me get this started (and graciously allowed me to take the blog with me when I moved to my current firm six years ago).  My current firm, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, has also been very supportive, and I particularly want to thank several attorneys at the firm (especially David O’Connor and Kelly Donohue) who help catch, on short notice, my typos and slips in analysis for articles that I usually get around to finishing shortly before my publication deadline.  Also, a number of other attorneys at the firm including Mitch Stabbe, Aaron Burstein, Bob Kirk and Josh Bercu have contributed articles, and I hope that they will continue with their valuable contributions in the future.  Thanks, also, to my friendly competitors at the other law firms that have taken up publishing blogs on communications and media legal issues since I launched mine – you all do a great job with your own take on the issues, and you inspire me to try to keep up with you all. 

I’ve posted over 2000 articles in the last 12 years.  That works out to almost an article once every other day.  But there never seems to be any shortage of topics to write about.  In fact, what is in short supply is time – as clients and life need to come first, and blogging gets worked into the schedule when it fits.  But writing this blog has become an important part of my legal practice.  It has, I think, helped make me a better lawyer, as it has given me an incentive to keep up to date on developments in the law and in business that affect broadcasters and other media companies.  The articles, and the opportunities that the articles have opened for speaking and otherwise contributing to industry discussions, have introduced me to many people in the industry who are there pushing these developments.  Interacting with those actually in the business trenches provide even more to write about.

When we first started the blog, I don’t think that I was sure how it would turn out.  But, among the many goals that I set in my first post, was the following:

So some days, the blog may just report on FCC actions. Other days, we may link to interesting or provocative news stories that we see in the trade or popular press. But sometimes, we will tackle more fundamental issues. For instance, one of the first questions we’ll have to address is just what the broadcast industry is today. While we could limit the stories in this blog to just matters about the over-the-air broadcast industry, that narrow view would be far too limiting. Broadcasting is no longer an island unto itself. Instead, each day it becomes more and more clear that the world that traditional broadcasting inhabits is one that goes far beyond those narrow areas that the FCC has traditionally defined as a broadcast service. Thus, we will be pointing out developments and legal decisions that impact not only traditional over-the-air radio and television stations, but also those in the myriad “new media” that are now so crucial to any understanding of the broadcast industry. Media “convergence,” which has for so long been nothing more than a buzz word thrown around to make it seem like we’re thinking about the future, is finally here, and cannot be ignored in a discussion of the broadcast industry.

Looking back, that may have been an ambitious goal, but it is one that we continue to try to achieve. In fact, in the last couple of months, we published articles on the Music Modernization Act, legal issues for broadcasters in digital and social media advertising, a Supreme Court decision that may provide broadcasters with new revenue from advertising for sports betting, efforts to regulate online political advertising, and potential reform of the radio ownership rules based on the plethora of new media outlets for audio entertainment. It is clear that the initial vision of a broadcasting industry that has expanded far beyond its traditional over-the-air bounds was not just the first question that we would address, but it is one that we address every week.

And there still is an inexhaustible supply of issues that we need to follow. Of course, the current FCC is very active reforming the regulatory landscape for broadcasters, which will no doubt prompt many articles. Copyright issues are also more important than ever – look for articles in the near future on what’s next for the Music Modernization Act and on how Alexa, Google Home and other voice-activated legal assistants raise royalty considerations for program providers. Expect more coverage of changes in the broadcast ownership rules, and in many areas affecting the advertising landscape, including legal issues raised by programmatic buying (about which we have written before – see for instance here and here).

Thanks again to all our readers.  Keep reading, tell your friends about the blog, let me know if I can ever help you (I am, of course, a lawyer whose clients provide the resources to track all of these issues), and we’ll see what happens as we celebrate future anniversaries of the Broadcast Law Blog.

June Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO, Translators, Political Rules and Earth Stations

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 30 May 2018 3:25 pm

For radio and television stations with 5 or more full-time employees located in Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia, June 1 brings the requirement that you upload to your online inspection file your Annual EEO Public Inspection File Report detailing your employment outreach efforts for job openings filled in the last year, as well as the supplemental efforts you have made to educate the community about broadcast employment or the training efforts undertaken to advance your employees skills. For TV stations that are part of Employment Units with five or more full-time employees and located in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, you also need to submit your EEO Form 397 Mid-Term Report. See our article here on the Mid-Term Report, and another here on an FCC proposal that could lead to the elimination of the filing of the form.

June 1 should also serve as a reminder to radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia that your license renewal will be filed a year from now, on or before June 1, 2019. So, if you have not done so already, you should be reviewing your online public inspection file to make sure that it is complete, and otherwise review your station operations in anticipation of that filing. We wrote about some of the issues of concern for the upcoming license renewal cycle in our article here. TV stations in those same states will start the TV renewal cycle two years from now.This month also brings to the end a number of filing windows. LPTV and TV translator stations displaced by the incentive auction have until June 1 to complete and file displacement applications, specifying a new channel for their post-repacking operations. See our articles here and here. AM stations that filed for a FM translator in the most recent window who ended up mutually exclusive with other applicants have until June 14 to file amendments to their applications to resolve the mutual exclusivity or otherwise reach a settlement, or they will end up in an auction at some point in the future. For more information, see this article. Such an auction will be held for translator applicants from the 2003 translator window that were not able to resolve their mutual exclusivity in a long-ago translator window – that auction to be held starting June 21. See this article.

June will also bring a hearing at the Federal Election Commission on the required sponsorship identification for online political ads. See our article here for more information on this FEC hearing and other activity to regulate online political advertising.

And broadcast stations using C Band earth stations to receive programming or for other uses should consider registering these dishes with the FCC, as the FCC is considering repurposing the band for other uses or allowing other wireless uses in the band used by these dishes. The FCC needs to know what users need protection or other accommodation in that band. While there is no requirement that receive-only dishes be registered, no protection will be afforded to those that do not register by July 18. See the FCC public notice on that issue here.

As always, there are plenty of other legal and regulatory issues that may affect broadcast stations – including political lowest unit rate windows in many states in anticipation of primary elections. So stay alert for those dates, watch alerts from broadcast associations, and consult your attorney to make sure that you stay on top of all of your regulatory obligations.

FCC Extends Dates by Which TV Broadcasters Must Convert Non-Textual Emergency Information to Audio on SAP Channel

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 29 May 2018 5:09 pm

In an Order released Friday, The FCC gave TV broadcasters five more years to convert non-textual emergency information delivered to audiences outside of news programs into speech that is broadcast on station’s Secondary Audio Programming (“SAP”) channels, usually used for Spanish and other non-English translations of television programs. Broadcasters, as we have written before (see our articles here, here and here) are already required to take textual information (like textual crawls) containing emergency information that is broadcast outside of news programming and to provide those messages in audio on SAP channels so that visually impaired viewers can get the emergency information. The blind and others with visual impairments are notified of the emergency information that is contained in a crawl by the audible tones that stations air when they are providing such information.

While the textual information can be converted to speech to be broadcast on the SAP channels though automated means, the NAB, the American Council of the Blind, and the American Foundation for the Blind submitted a request for a further waiver of the rules that would otherwise require that non-textual information like weather maps be converted into speech, noting that none of these organizations could find any source for an accurate means to make that conversion automatically. See our article here on the waiver request. The costs and potential inaccuracies of station employees trying to provide such descriptions live at a station precluded live description from being a viable solution. Thus, the FCC gave the parties five years to develop an automated system to provide such descriptions.

The NAB will need to report to the FCC on its progress at the midway point of this 5 year waiver period. The FCC also urged stations to do their best to insure that the information shown on maps and other non-textual emergency information be conveyed in textual alerts, so that the public can receive information about emergency situations. In the same order, the FCC granted a permanent waiver of this requirement to analog-only cable systems that lack the equipment to pass through the audio from such alerts.

FCC Opens Rulemaking Proceedings on the Processing of Interference Complaints for FM Translators and Eliminating the Posting of Licenses at Broadcast Control Points

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Fri 11 May 2018 4:42 pm

At yesterday’s FCC open meeting, the Commission commenced two proceedings of interest to broadcasters. The first deals with the processing of complaints of interference caused by new FM translators. The second proposes to eliminate the need for the posting of station licenses and other FCC authorizations at the control points of broadcast stations. Comments dates in each proceeding will be computed from the publication of these orders in the Federal Register, which will occur at some point in the future.

In each case, the FCC essentially adopted without significant revision the draft notices that were released several weeks ago. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (available here) on translator interference standards sets out proposals for the minimum number of listeners who would have to complain before an interference complaint would be processed, and suggests limiting complaints of interference to those that arise within the 54 dbu contour of the primary station complaining about the interference. We wrote in more detail about the FCC’s proposals in our summary of the draft notice, here.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on eliminating the posting of FCC authorizations (available here) suggests that posting the FCC authorizations at a station’s control point serves no real public interest purpose, as members of the public are unlikely to have access to that location, and as all the information in those authorizations are available on the FCC’s website. The FCC also proposed to eliminate the requirement that FM translators post information about the licensee of the translator at the transmitter site for the station. Our article about this proposal when the draft was released of this action being taken as part of the FCC’s Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative is available here.

Comments on each proposal will be due 30 days after that proposal is published in the Federal Register. Reply comments on the translator interference proposals will be due 60 days after Federal Register publication. Only 15 days will be provided for reply comments on the posting of licenses – making those comments due 45 days after Federal Register publication.

 

License Renewal Cycle Starts in a Year – Crackdown on Silent Stations and Online Public File Signal Warnings to Broadcasters

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 8 May 2018 4:10 pm

Starting June 1, 2019, just over a year from now, the next broadcast license renewal cycle will begin. By that date, radio stations in DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia must file their renewal applications. Every other month for the next 3 years will bring the filing of radio license renewals in another set of states. And television stations will begin their renewal cycle a year later (June 1, 2020). The FCC’s schedule for radio license renewals can be found here and here. For TV stations, the schedule of renewal filings by state is in the same – just one year later than for radio. Every eight years, broadcast stations have to seek the renewal of their licenses by the FCC by demonstrating their continuing qualifications to be a licensee, including showing that they have not had a history of FCC violations and that they have otherwise served the public interest.

We have already written several times about how, with all broadcasters – both radio and TV – now required to have an online public file, it is important for stations to make sure that those files are complete and are kept up to date on a regular basis (see our articles here, here and here). Given that the contents of the online public file can be viewed by anyone, anywhere, just by launching an Internet browser, we would expect more complaints about incomplete files, and more scrutiny by the FCC of the contents of files that rarely were subject to FCC review in the past. FCC staffers can review public file compliance from their offices or homes, and do not have to rely on the rare field inspection to discover a violation. Thus, stations should be reviewing the contents of their files now to be sure that they are ready for the scrutiny that they will receive in the upcoming renewal cycle. But that is not the only issue about which stations need to be concerned, as illustrated by a decision released by the FCC yesterday, deciding to hold an evidentiary hearing as to whether the license renewal of a broadcast station that had been silent much of the last license renewal term should be granted.

In the Hearing Designation Order released yesterday, the FCC went through the history of a Wyoming radio station that had operated for only days during its last license term, and since then had each year operated for only a few days each year to avoid forfeiting its license under Section 312(g) of the Communications Act (which says that the license of a station that is off the air for more than a year is forfeited unless the FCC finds that the public interest calls for an exception – see our articles here and here). Only since last August, well past the end of the license renewal term under review, did the station come back on the air on a full-time basis. The FCC asks the station’s licensee to produce all records of how it served the public interest during the renewal term (including all logs and records of EAS tests) and otherwise provide evidence as to why its renewal should be granted.

We wrote here about the FCC launching a similar hearing proceeding for another station last year, and about a number of other cases where the FCC has imposed short-term renewals or other penalties on stations that had a history of long periods of silence during the license term (see our articles here and here). While the FCC’s dividing line between stations that get a short-term renewal and those that get designated for hearing and possible loss of license is not entirely clear, yesterday’s decision reinforces the warning to broadcasters who currently have silent stations that they need to get those stations operational as soon as possible so as to be able to demonstrate a record of public service during the current license term so as to justify a renewal when their applications are filed during this upcoming renewal cycle.

The renewal cycle starts next year. The time for getting into compliance is now, as last minute fixes may not solve all problems – and that last minute may already be upon or be imminent for many stations.

FCC Approves 100% Mexican Ownership of Radio Stations in California and Arizona – Further Showing Foreign Ownership Limitations Less Significant in Today’s Broadcast World

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 2 May 2018 5:24 pm

The FCC yesterday issued a Declaratory Ruling approving the acquisition by a company owned by two Mexican citizens of 100% of the ownership interest of a company that owns two radio stations in California and Arizona. Currently, the company owned by the Mexican citizens had only a 25% interest in the parent company of the licensee which, until a few years ago, would have been the limit imposed on foreign ownership of a US broadcast station. But, several years ago, as we wrote here, the FCC decided to permit, on a case by case basis, greater foreign ownership of US broadcast station owners. The FCC has also issued guidance on how public US companies can track their foreign ownership. See our articles here and here. Through yesterday’s decision approving the 100% ownership of the radio company, together with a case last year approving 100% ownership of broadcast stations in Alaska and Texas by Australian citizens (see our summary here), the Commission has demonstrated that it is serious about, in the right circumstances, approving foreign ownership of US broadcast stations.

Foreign ownership does not come without limits, however. Any foreign owner seeking to acquire a substantial stake in a US broadcast station must be reviewed by various Executive Branch agencies to insure that there are no perceived security risks raised by the proposed acquisition. The FCC has to do its own review as well. And, once approved, the foreign owner must report on any changes in its ownership so that new interest holders can go through the same approval process. Nevertheless, this series of decisions make clear that the FCC is open to non-US investors acquiring broadcast properties. It may take longer to sell a station than when a property is acquired by a US buyer, and certain foreign buyers may not be allowed if security issues come up, but otherwise the market is open to many new buyers of broadcast stations.

Another Modernization of Media Proposal – Eliminate the Need for Posting Station Licenses at Broadcast Station Control Point

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 25 Apr 2018 5:07 pm

We wrote last week about one broadcast issue to be considered at the FCC’s May 10 meeting, amending the procedures for resolving complaints about interference by new FM translators to other existing FM stations. At that same meeting, the FCC is planning to adopt another item in its Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative – a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (see a draft of that item here) to eliminate the FCC rules that require broadcast stations to post physical copies of their license (and other instruments of authorization such as STAs or renewals), or to keep physical copies of these documents in a binder, at their control point.

The FCC also asks whether translator operators should continue to have to post information at their transmitter sites as to the name, address and telephone number of the licensee and where station records are maintained. Given that all of this information is in the FCC’s database and accessible to anyone with Internet access (and as the licenses posted at the control point are not even accessible to the public), the draft NPRM, if adopted at the May 10 meeting, would propose to eliminate these rules. Watch for the adoption of this proposal at the May 10 meeting, and the comments dates on the proposal that will be set after the meeting.

Another Legal Update From the NAB Convention – FCC to Look at the KidVid Rules in a Formal Proceeding Soon

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Sun 15 Apr 2018 5:20 pm

We just wrote about the FCC talk at the NAB Convention about translator interference and pirate radio. On the TV side, there was of course mention of the remaining TV post-incentive auction transition issues with the repacking of displaced full-power stations and the open window for displaced TV translators and LPTV stations to find new homes in the remaining TV spectrum. But the other issue that came up in several regulatory conversations was reform of the Children’s Television or “KidVid” rules. As we wrote here, Commissioner O’Rielly has been put in charge of that rewrite after expressing concern that these rules did not reflect modern competitive realities (see our summary of the Commissioner’s blog post where he raised issues that he saw with the current rules). Under current rules, stations have to find three hours of educational and informational programs for their primary program channel as well as each of their digital subchannels. Particularly as the number of those subchannels could expand with ATSC 3.0, these stations will likely have difficulty finding audiences for all of that programming when the children’s audience is served by so many other outlets, including dedicated children’s channels on cable and satellite platform, and by all sorts of on-demand content.

In his speech at the Convention, Chairman Pai mentioned the efforts of Commissioner O’Rielly to review these rules. Commissioner O’Rielly, in remarks that he made at a convention breakfast, notes that he has been told that young children’s viewing of over-the-air television has precipitously dropped in recent years. At the same time, as attention spans have decreased, the FCC remains wedded to a 3 hour per week requirement for educational and informational on each programming channel offered by a TV broadcaster, and it must be provided in blocks of at least one-half hour to meet the standard review thresholds. Commissioner O’Rielly is looking for new ways for the FCC to address children’s programming requirements, and expects the FCC to start a formal proceeding to address changes in the rules by this summer. So look for more developments on this front quite soon.

FCC Requests Comments on Extension of Compliance Deadline for TV Stations to Convert Non-Textual Emergency Information into Audio on SAP Channel

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 28 Mar 2018 5:12 pm

In 2015, TV broadcasters were required to convert textual warnings about emergency events that are broadcast outside of news programs  (e.g. weather alerts that are displayed as textual crawls during entertainment programming) into audio, and to transmit that audio on the station’s SAP channel. The deadline for that requirement was extended, and then paired back when the FCC determined that some of the events that might be listed in textual alerts, like school closing information during winter weather, could not feasibly be broadcast in a timely fashion on the SAP channel (see our summary here). The text-to-speech requirement for broadcast of emergency information on the SAP channel did go into effect on November 30, 2015. But the FCC extended the deadline for converting non-textual information (such as weather graphics) into speech for broadcast on the SAP channel, as no ready technology for such conversion exists. The most recent extended deadline for compliance with the requirement for non-textual information to be converted to audio runs through May 26 of this year (see our article here). The FCC has just issued a Public Notice announcing that the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the National Association of Broadcasters have new asked for a further extension of the compliance deadline, as no technology for this graphics to speech conversion yet exists.

The parties ask for a 5 year extension of the compliance deadline to find a solution that will allow non-textual information to be converted to audio, and the groups pledge to continue to work together to find a solution. The FCC asks for comments on this proposed extension.  Comments are due by April 13, 2018 with replies due by April 20, 2018. In the interim, of course, all obligations of TV stations to convert textual alerts run during non-news programs to audio alerts broadcast on a TV station’s SAP channel remain in place.

April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – First Quarterly Issues Programs Lists in Online Public File for All Radio Stations and Other Important Dates

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 27 Mar 2018 5:04 pm

April brings with it a milestone – as it is the end of the first quarter since all radio stations have had to have their online public inspection file “live” so that anyone, anywhere, can view a station’s compliance with rules that previously could only be judged by going to the station and reviewing the paper public file. April 10, in particular, is important, as it is when Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, summarizing the most important issues facing the community which the broadcaster serves and the programs that the broadcaster aired to address those issues, must be in the online public file for all full-power radio and TV stations. We wrote about the importance of these sometimes overlooked documents here, as these are the only FCC-mandated documents that reflect how a station has served the needs and interests of its community. We have also noted that, in the past license renewal cycle, missing Quarterly Issues Programs lists were the source of the most fines issued to broadcasters. Now that compliance can be judged at any time by the FCC, their importance is only magnified. So be sure that you get these documents into your online public file by April 10.

EEO Public Inspection File Reports, summarizing a station’s employment record for the prior year, are also to be uploaded to a station’s online public file. For radio and TV stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas, these reports need to be completed and included in the public file by April 1 by all stations that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time (30 hours per week) employees. In addition, radio stations in employment units with 11 or more full-time employees in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and TV stations in Texas with 5 or more full-time employees, also need to file EEO Mid-Term Reports, commonly referred to as FCC Form 397 applications. While the FCC is considering the abolition of the Mid-Term Report (see our article here), the obligation is still in place so, for now, stations must comply.

TV stations also must file with the FCC, by April 10, their Children’s Television Reports, detailing the amount of educational and informational programming that they have broadcast on each of their subchannels. Here, again, there are proposals at the FCC for reform of this requirement (see our post here), but as no action has yet been taken, this report must still be filed. In addition, TV stations must include in their public file documentation showing that they complied with the advertising limits in children’s television programming.

April also brings various filing deadlines for various groups of stations. TV stations changing channels as a result of the incentive auction must file a Transition Progress Report by April 10. This is filed on FCC Form 2100 – Schedule 387 (see our article here).

Low Power TV stations and TV translators displaced by the repacking of TV stations following the incentive auction can file for “displacement channels” (channels that are in the new core TV band and not blocked by full-power stations) in a window that opens on April 10 and runs through May 15. See our article here about that window.

Radio stations involved in the recent translator filing windows have some important dates in April. April 18 through May 9 are the dates for the window for long-form applications by AM stations that filed applications for FM translators in the second FCC window that was open late last year for Class A and B AM stations to seek FM translators (see our article here). Applications that were not found to be singletons in that auction (in other words, those applications that did conflict with other applications filed during the window) should be looking for the announcement in the near term by the FCC of a filing window for amendments to applications to resolve their mutual exclusivity.

Responses to the FCC’s latest EEO audit are due by April 12. See our article here about that audit, which notes that responses are to be posted in a station’s online public file, not filed directly with the FCC.

A number of reply comments in pending FCC proceedings are due in April. Reply comments in the FCC proceeding to abolish the filing requirements for certain FCC contracts are due by April 2 (see our summary of the FCC proposals here). Reply Comments on the FCC’s inquiry into the national cap on TV ownership are due April 18 (see our summary here). And, finally, comments on the FCC’s proposals for an incubator program are due April 9 (see our summary here).

Another busy month in regulation for broadcasters seems to be in store. Always remember to check with your counsel for other dates that we may have missed here that are important to your station.

FCC Announces Effective Date of Requirement for Public File Access to TV Shared Services Agreements

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 26 Mar 2018 4:53 pm

On Friday, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing that the rules requiring the inclusion in the online public file of TV station “shared services agreements” is now effective after having been approved by the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act. This obligation for TV stations to put in their public file agreements between independently owned TV stations for shared broadcast services (including shared news operations, accounting staffs and other operational matters) became effective on March 23. It was adopted in the 2016 FCC Ownership Order and the obligation was not changed in last year’s reconsideration of that order (see our summary here). Thus, new shared services agreements should be placed into the public file shortly after being entered into. Agreements existing before the March 23 effective date need to be added to the file within 180 days. As the definition of shared services agreements is very broad, seemingly including pretty much any kind of service other than an on-the-fly, single event-based news cooperation agreements and agreements totally unrelated to broadcast operations (like shared janitorial services), if your TV station shares services of any sort with another station in its market, talk to your attorney about whether that agreement needs to be included in your public file.

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