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

FCC Adopts New Rules on Satellite TV Stations, Removing Order from March Meeting Agenda

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Thu 14 Mar 2019 5:13 pm

Earlier this week, the FCC released an order adopting new rules governing the sale of TV stations serving as “satellites” of other stations in their markets – either rebroadcasting the primary station or otherwise operating in conjunction with that parent station, usually serving rural areas where an independent full-service station cannot economically operate. The new rules allow for the sale of these stations, together with the parent station, without an expensive economic showing that the same conditions that originally justified the satellite status still exist. The applicant just needs to certify that the same conditions exist and, absent challenge, the FCC will presume that the parent and satellite can be sold together. We summarized this proceeding here and here. This is one more action under the FCC’s Modernization of Media Regulation initiative to simplify some of the rules by which broadcasters are governed. The new policies will be effective 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register, following review under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Do TV Program Ratings Do a Good Job Telling Families Which Programs are Appropriate for Kids to Watch? Congress Wants to Know, So the FCC is Asking

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Fri 1 Mar 2019 5:44 pm

The FCC this week launched an inquiry into whether the TV Parental Guidelines and the organization that oversees these ratings provide accurate information to viewers as to which TV programs are appropriate for children. The FCC released a Public Notice to initiate the inquiry at the direction of Congress in the recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Bill – the Bill which ended the threat of a second government shutdown. That Bill contained a number of provisions directing various government agencies to take specific actions, including a direction to the FCC to provide a report to Congress in 90 days on the “extent to which the rating system matches the video content that is being shown” and whether the TV Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board (which oversees the ratings system) has the ability to address public concerns about the ratings. With the report due to be submitted to Congress by May 15, the FCC has asked for public comment on an expedited basis, with comments due March 12, and replies due just a week later on March 19.

The Board was established by a voluntary industry initiative approved by the FCC following a Congressional mandate for V-Chip technology in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. For the V-Chip to work, programs have to be rated. The ratings that resulted are familiar to most TV viewers and range from TV-Y programming appropriate for all children to TV-MA, appropriate only for mature audiences. Programs are also rated for Violence (“V”), Fantasy Violence in programming for older children (“FV”), Sexual Content (“S”), Suggestive Dialogue (“D”) and Strong Language (“L”). These ratings are applied to most TV and cable programming except news, sports, and ads. Based on the claims by interest groups that the ratings do not accurately describe the programming, Congress issued this directive to the FCC. What questions does the FCC ask in its request for comments from the public?

The FCC seeks comment on numerous questions, including:

  • Whether the Board has done a good job responding to public input;
  • Whether the Board has improved the accuracy of the ratings over time;
  • Whether all of the programming that the industry committed to rate is in fact being rated;
  • Has the Board taken steps to enforce the ratings commitments from the industry;
  • Are programs being accurately rated and the standards for content ratings correctly applied;
  • Are the ratings being applied consistently; and
  • Are there any particular types of content that are more likely to be rated inaccurately.

While this Public Notice does not propose any specific action, in theory, were the Report to conclude that there were problems with the current system, follow up proceedings by the FCC or action by Congress to remedy perceived issues could follow. If you have comments on the system, follow the directions in the Public Notice to contribute to the discussion – and watch for the report generated based on these comments which is expected in May.

FCC To Consider Rule for Repacking Expense Reimbursement for Radio and LPTV, and New Rules for Sale of Satellite Television Stations, at March Meeting

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Fri 22 Feb 2019 5:26 pm

At its March 15 meeting, the FCC is scheduled to consider two items dealing with broadcasters, according to a blog post authored by Chairman Pai published yesterday. The first item to be considered deals with LPTV stations and TV translators, as well FM broadcasters – setting out the rules for reimbursement to be paid to these stations for costs they incurred due to the repacking of the television spectrum following the TV incentive auction. Our summary of the initial proposal released last year is available here. That proposal has been somewhat controversial particularly in its treatment of FM broadcasters where the full costs incurred by an FM due to the repacking would not be paid, particularly for stations that had to make only short-term moves. We would expect the draft order to be released later today, and will add a link here when that proposed order is released.

The second item is far less controversial. As part of its Modernization of Media Regulation initiative, the FCC is planning on adopting rules that would allow for the sale of satellite television stations (stations that serve principally rural areas primarily by rebroadcasting some or all of another station in the market) without an extensive economic showing of the continuing need for satellite operation. Instead, when evaluating a sale, the FCC proposed to essentially assume that the need for a combined operation continues to exist unless there is a showing to the contrary demonstrating that the satellite could operate independently. See our summary of the initial proposal here. Again, the draft order to be considered at the March 15 meeting should be released later today, and we will add a link here when that order is available. Watch for consideration of these orders at the March 15 meeting.

Washington Legal Issues for TV Broadcasters – Where Things Stand

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Fri 15 Feb 2019 5:59 pm

Where do all the Washington DC legal issues facing TV broadcasters stand? While we try on this Blog to write about many of those issues, we can’t always address everything that is happening. Every few months, my partner David O’Connor and I update a list of the legal and regulatory issues facing TV broadcasters. That list of issues is published by TVNewsCheck and the latest version, published today, is available on their website, here. It provides a summary of the status of legal and regulatory issues ranging from the adoption of the ATSC 3.0 standard at one end of the alphabet to White Spaces and Wireless Microphones on the other – with summaries of other issues including Ownership Rule Changes, Children’s Television, Media Regulation Modernization, EEO Compliance, Political Advertising, Sponsorship Identification and dozens of other topics, many with links to more detailed discussions here on the Blog. Of course, the status of these issues changes almost daily, so watch this Blog and other trade publications, and consult your own legal counsel, for the latest Washington news of interest to broadcasters.

FEC Seeks Comment on Proposal for Change in TV Political Disclosures

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 12 Feb 2019 3:05 pm

We usually think of the FCC as the agency that sets the details of the broadcast disclosure obligations for political candidate’s TV ads. But the Federal Election Commission has its own rules for political advertising that are binding on the candidates, rather than on the stations. But because these ads run on broadcast stations, stations need to pay attention to them to avoid getting caught up in arguments about whether candidate ads are legal, and because the FEC rules often get adopted by the FCC. For these reasons, broadcasters need to pay attention to an entry in today’s Federal Register, where the FEC gives notice of its receipt of a Petition for Rulemaking proposing changes to the textual disclosures made in TV political ads.

Right now, the written disclosures of the sponsor of political ads need to run at 4% of vertical picture height for not less than 4 seconds – the same requirement reflected in both the FEC and FCC rules. The proposal on which the FEC seeks comment suggests that the screen height requirements in the current rules are outdated in the digital television world. According to the Petition, current industry guidelines for a normal disclaimer size is 22 pixels (approximately 2% of the vertical picture height) using HD resolution. Thus, the Petition suggests that 2% be adopted as the standard for political disclosures when shown on high definition digital television transmissions, with the 4% obligation being retained for standard definition broadcasts. After receiving comments, the FEC will decide whether to commence a formal rulemaking proceeding. Comments on this proposal are due on or before Monday, April 15, 2019.

Elimination of Requirement that Broadcasters Post Their Licenses Becomes Effective

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Fri 8 Feb 2019 5:51 pm

As we wrote here, at the FCC’s December meeting, the FCC was scheduled to adopt an order eliminating the requirement that broadcasters post a physical copy of their licenses and other instruments of authorization at their control points or transmitter sites. In fact, the Commission adopted that order before the meeting, and it today published the order in the Federal Register, meaning that it is effective as of today. This order was adopted as part of the FCC’s Modernization of Media Regulation initiative. As a station’s licenses are now generally available online, the FCC stated that they saw no reason to require that they be posted at station locations not normally accessible to the public. So there is now one less regulatory requirement for broadcasters to worry about.

FCC Seeks Comments on Video Description Marketplace for Report to Congress

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 5 Feb 2019 6:26 pm

Commercial television broadcast stations that are affiliated with one of the top four commercial television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) and are located in the top 60 television markets are required to provide 50 hours per calendar quarter of video-described prime time or children’s programming, and to provide an additional 37.5 hours of video-described programming per calendar quarter at any time between 6 a.m. and midnight. Other network affiliated stations outside the Top 60 markets must pass through any video-described programming provided by their network. Video description provides an explanation of the action in a TV program that is not evident from the dialog, so that those with visual disabilities can understand what is happening in a TV program. Video description was mandated by Congress, and the FCC yesterday issued a Public Notice asking for comment on this requirement for a report to Congress.

Specifically, the FCC is asking parties to comment on the following questions:

  • The types of described video programming that are available to consumers;
  • Consumer use of such programming;
  • The costs to program owners, providers, and distributors of creating such programming;
  • The potential costs to program owners, providers, and distributors in designated market areas outside of the top 60 of creating such programming;
  • The benefits to consumers of such programming;
  • The amount of such programming currently available; and
  • The need for additional described programming in designated market areas outside the top 60

Comments are due by April 1, and reply comments should be filed by May 1.

FCC Seeks Comments on Video Description Marketplace for Report to Congress

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 5 Feb 2019 6:26 pm

Commercial television broadcast stations that are affiliated with one of the top four commercial television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) and are located in the top 60 television markets are required to provide 50 hours per calendar quarter of video-described prime time or children’s programming, and to provide an additional 37.5 hours of video-described programming per calendar quarter at any time between 6 a.m. and midnight. Other network affiliated stations outside the Top 60 markets must pass through any video-described programming provided by their network. Video description provides an explanation of the action in a TV program that is not evident from the dialog, so that those with visual disabilities can understand what is happening in a TV program. Video description was mandated by Congress, and the FCC yesterday issued a Public Notice asking for comment on this requirement for a report to Congress.

Specifically, the FCC is asking parties to comment on the following questions:

  • The types of described video programming that are available to consumers;
  • Consumer use of such programming;
  • The costs to program owners, providers, and distributors of creating such programming;
  • The potential costs to program owners, providers, and distributors in designated market areas outside of the top 60 of creating such programming;
  • The benefits to consumers of such programming;
  • The amount of such programming currently available; and
  • The need for additional described programming in designated market areas outside the top 60

Comments are due by April 1, and reply comments should be filed by May 1.

FCC Sets Up Re-Scan Help Desk for Consumers Dealing With TV Repacking

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 5 Feb 2019 6:20 pm

The FCC yesterday announced that it is setting up a consumer help desk, where operators will be standing by to answer questions about rescanning the TV spectrum to find TV stations that have changed channels due to the repacking of the TV band. Many TV stations will be changing channels due to the repacking of the TV band following the broadcast incentive auction which shrunk the number of channels dedicated to TV broadcasting as part of the TV band was repurposed for wireless communications uses. As the TV stations that were forced to change channels by the repacking make those changes, consumers receiving their TV signals over the air will need to “rescan” the TV band to make sure that their sets find all the local stations on their new channels. The help desk will be available to answer consumer questions 7 days a week, from 8 AM to 1 AM Eastern Time.

December Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Reports, December FCC Meeting and Getting Ready for New Years’ Obligations

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Sun 25 Nov 2018 6:24 pm

While the holidays may be upon us, there is no rest in the broadcast regulatory world. December 1 brings routine EEO public file report obligations for radio and television station employment units with 5 or more full-time employees for stations located in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont. Stations in those states need to upload their EEO Public Inspection file report to their online public file by December 1, reporting on their outreach efforts for employment openings at their stations in the prior year, as well as their non-vacancy specific outreach (the FCC’s EEO “menu options” where broadcasters report on efforts they have taken to educate the public about broadcast employment opportunities and to train their employees to assume more important employment roles at their stations). See our post here for more on the EEO obligations.

TV stations with 5 or more employees located in any of the New England states have the additional obligation to file their FCC Mid-Term EEO Report – due on December 3 as the 1st is a Saturday. This report, filed on FCC Form 397, provides the FCC with the last two years’ Public File Reports, and a contact person at your stations to be contacted with EEO questions. While the FCC is considering elimination of these reports as most of the required information is already in a station’s online public file (where you should have all EEO public inspection file reports back to the date of the station’s last license renewal filing), the form is still required.

All full-power stations, commercial and noncommercial, should be preparing for next month’s obligations – where each station will have to include in its online public inspection file their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists. These are due in each station’s public file by January 10. With the upcoming license renewals, where the FCC is likely to review your file for the inclusion of these lists, they take on added significance – as they are the only required documents where you show how your programming responded to the public interest. See our article here. Also due by the 10th of January are FCC Form 398, Children’s Television Reports, to be filed by all TV stations to report on the educational and informational programming directed to children that they broadcast in the past year. Here, too, the FCC is looking at reform of its children’s programming requirements (see our post here). But, until such reform is adopted, these reports are still due quarterly.

For those TV stations that make revenue from non-broadcast “ancillary and supplementary services” (e.g. data transmission and similar non-broadcast services), reports on the revenue that they received from such services (and payment of the government’s assessment on that revenue) are due at the FCC by December 1. These reports had been due from all TV stations in the past, but as part of the FCC’s Modernization of Media Regulation initiative, the FCC limited the filing requirement solely to those stations with revenue to report. See our post here.

The FCC’s December 12 meeting will also include a number of issues of importance to broadcasters. These include the FCC’s adoption of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to start its next review of the ownership rules – looking principally at the local radio ownership limits, but also trying to define more precisely when any 2 of the Top 4 TV stations in a market can be combined, and whether the FCC should continue to prohibit the co-ownership of the Top 4 broadcast networks. The December 12 meeting is likely to also include a final decision on the FCC’s proposal to abolish the requirement that broadcast stations post their station authorizations at their control points. See our post here.

December 21 is also the date by which petitioners in the appeal of the FCC’s 2017 multiple ownership rule decision (relaxing the TV local ownership rules, eliminating the broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership and radio/television cross-ownership rules, and making other changes – see our post here) and its adoption of an incubator program (see our post here) are due to be filed in Court. We’ll see the arguments of the parties opposing these rule changes. But the briefing schedule in the case runs through March, with oral arguments after that, so we’ll likely not see the decision in that case until late in 2019.

Of course, as in any month, these are but the highlights of the regulatory dates of importance to broadcasters. Stations should watch developments out of the FCC, and consult with their own advisors, to make sure that they know the regulatory obligations that apply to their own stations.

With a Hurricane Bearing Down on the East Coast, Remember the FCC’s Requirements for Emergency Communications

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 11 Sep 2018 4:08 pm

With Hurricane Florence about to hit the East Coast, broadcasters are well reminded of their obligations with respect to the airing of emergency information. Broadcasters may also want to consider the benefits that the FCC can offer in an emergency. While the FCC yesterday announced the postponement of its test of DIRS, the Disaster Information Reporting System, broadcasters may want to consider quickly getting familiar with this system. The voluntary system allows stations in the area affected by any disaster to report on the status of their operations. In the past, FCC officials have assisted stations that were off-the-air or operating with emergency facilities in order to direct resources (like gas trucks to fuel emergency generators) to these stations so that they could continue to provide emergency information. Registering in DIRS can facilitate getting the information about your station’s status to the FCC. More information is available on the FCC’s website, here.

But emergencies also impose regulatory obligations on broadcasters – particularly TV broadcasters. Last year, the issued a FCC Public Notice reminding all video programmers of the importance of making emergency information accessible to all viewers. The FCC has just posted a link to a notice about a disaster preparedness webinar it will be conducting on September 27 for state and local government officials, and we would not be surprised to see a new notice reminding broadcasters of their emergency obligations in the coming days. Last year’s notice serves as a good refresher on all of the obligations of video programmers designed to make emergency information available to members of the viewing audience who may have auditory or visual impairments that may make this information harder to receive. The notice also reminded readers that they could file complaints against video programming distributors who do not follow the rules. Thus, TV broadcasters need to be extremely sensitive to all of these requirements.

What are these obligations? These are some of the obligations highlighted by the FCC’s reminder:

  • For persons who are visually impaired, rules require that emergency information that is visually provided in a newscast must also be aurally described in the main audio channel of the station.
  • When emergency information is provided outside of a newscast (e.g., in a crawl during entertainment programming), that information must be accompanied by an aural tone and then an audio version of the emergency information must be broadcast on a secondary audio channel (SAP channel) of a TV station at least twice. See our articles here, here and here about this obligation.
  • For persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, the Commission requires that emergency information provided in the audio portion of a broadcast also be presented visually, through methods including captioning, crawls or scrolls that do not block any emergency information provided through other visual means (like other captions or crawls).
  • For stations that are permitted to use electronic newsroom technique (ENT) captions, where ENT does not provide captions for breaking news and emergency alerts, stations must make emergency information available through some other visual means. See our post here on this obligation.
  • The FCC suggests, but does not require, that stations make emergency information available through multiple means (maps, charts, and other visual information) and in plain language, so that all viewers can understand the nature of any emergency.

Emergency information is described broadly as information “intended to further the protection of life, health, safety, and property, i.e., critical details regarding the emergency and how to respond to the emergency.” The FCC gives the following examples of the types of emergencies that may be covered: “tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tidal waves, earthquakes, icing conditions, heavy snows, widespread fires, discharge of toxic gases, widespread power failures, industrial explosions, civil disorders, …. and warnings and watches of impending changes in weather.” The kinds of details that trigger these obligations include “the areas that will be affected by the emergency, evacuation orders, detailed descriptions of areas to be evacuated, specific evacuation routes, approved shelters or the way to take shelter in one’s home, instructions on how to secure personal property, road closures, and how to obtain relief assistance.”

The Commission noted that, in wide-spread emergencies like a hurricane, notices may need to be provided far beyond the local area directly hit by the emergency, as other areas can also be affected by the event.

Paying attention to the rules highlighted here and provided in more detail in the FCC’s Public Notice are very important, not just as it is important for broadcasters to serve all members of the public in their viewing areas, but also because there has been active enforcement in this area. The enforcement of these rules do not appear to be a partisan issue, as certain accessibility obligations have even be made more stringent during the term of this administration otherwise noted for its deregulation in other areas. With the upcoming storm, and to prepare for any other emergency that may arise, broadcasters should pay attention to these important emergency obligations.

FCC Reminds C-Band Satellite Dish Users – Including Broadcasters – To Register By October 17

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 10 Sep 2018 4:56 pm

On Friday, the FCC issued a reminder to all operators “of fixed-satellite service (FSS) earth stations in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band that were constructed and operational as of April 19, 2018 that the filing window to license or register such earth stations closes on October 17, 2018.” This frequency band is commonly referred to as the “C-Band”, and many of the “FSS earth stations” are satellite dishes that receive programming used by both radio and TV stations. The FCC is exploring allowing additional users into this spectrum, and has warned that only registered users of the spectrum will be entitled to any protections against any new users who may be authorized. In Friday’s public notice, the FCC also noted that those being protected not only need to have been operating by April 19 and registered by October 17 to be protected, but those entities will need to certify that the information in their registrations is correct on a form that will be made available at some point in the future. Users who have already registered are urged to make sure that their registrations are accurate by October 17, as certain corrections will not be allowed after that date. So broadcasters using this spectrum to receive satellite-delivered programming should heed the FCC’s advice and register by October 17.

Annual Regulatory Fees Due September 25 – Expect Changes in TV Fees Starting Next Year

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Thu 30 Aug 2018 2:05 pm

Just when you thought that it might be safe to stop watching your email and prepare to enjoy the long weekend, the FCC comes along and reminds you that there is work ahead in September. As we warned in our summary of the regulatory dates for broadcasters in September, the FCC announced the deadline for filing annual regulatory fees – they will be due by 11:59 pm ET on September 25, 2018.  A copy of the FCC order announcing the amounts of the new fees is available here.  The filing date is available on the FCC’s website.  Fee information is provided in Appendix C of the decision, which begins on Page 18 of order.  In the past, the Media Bureau has followed up with a Public Notice and Filing Guide specifically addressing fees to be paid by broadcasters.  Expect to see that in the next few days.

The Order also announces in Paragraph 14 of the decision that the method calculating TV regulatory fees will be changing beginning next year. It will be moving to a system for setting fees more like that used in radio by assessing fees for full-power broadcast TV stations based on the population covered by the station’s contour, instead of by the station’s DMA.  Beginning in 2019, the FCC plans to adopt a fee based on an average of the current DMA methodology and the population covered by a full-power broadcast TV station’s contour.  Thereafter, in 2020, the FCC will assess regulatory fees for full-power broadcast TV stations based solely on the population covered by the station’s contour. But for this year, the FCC detailed the procedures for payment that are much the same as last year.

Fees are set based on the station’s status as of October 1, 2017. So if, on that date, your now-operating station was just a construction permit, you pay the construction permit fee. If you have upgraded since last October, you have one more year of paying the amount due for a station with the facilities that you had last year. This even applies to TV stations that relinquished their licenses as part of the FCC incentive auction – if the station had a license last October that has since been surrendered following the Incentive Auction, it still owes a fee for last year’s operations.

All regulatory fee payments must be made by online Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment, online credit card, or wire transfer.  Any other form of payment (e.g., checks, cashier’s checks, or money orders) will be rejected.  For payments by wire, a Form 159-E should still be transmitted via fax so that the Commission can associate the wire payment with the correct regulatory fee information.

The maximum payment amount that can be charged on a credit card is $24,999.99.  Licensees who need to pay an amount greater than $24,999.99 should consider available electronic alternatives such as Visa or MasterCard debit cards, ACH debits from a bank account, and wire transfers.

Under FCC’s de minimis rule for regulatory fee payments, a company or other legal entity is exempt from paying regulatory fees if the sum total of all of its annual regulatory fee liabilities is $1,000 or less for the fiscal year. Generally, that means that holders of an FM or AM construction permit need not pay fees, if that is their only FCC authorization.

So check your bank account and make the payment by September 25. Failure to pay on time brings a 25% penalty and puts a hold on the processing of any of your FCC applications. Look for more information shortly when the Fee Filing Guides are released.


More September Regulatory Dates – Effective Date of New Application Fees, Filing Deadline for TV Shared Services Agreements, Lowest Unit Rate For September Election and Reminder on Repacking Requirements

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 28 Aug 2018 1:48 pm

Yesterday, we wrote about the regulatory dates coming up for broadcasters in September.  Even though that was an extensive list, we realized later that we left a few off.  So here are a few more issues to consider in September.  Plus, the FCC yesterday reminded repacked TV stations of all of the requirements for TV stations involved in the repacking of the TV band following the Incentive Auction which, as we noted in our post yesterday, formally begins this month.

One date that we overlooked was the effective date for a general increase in FCC application fees – those fees that commercial broadcasters pay every time they file an application for a construction permit, approval of a purchase or sale of a station, a license renewal, an STA or many other requests for FCC action.  As we wrote here, the FCC recently announced that the fees were going up to reflect inflation.  Last week, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing that those new fees are effective on September 4.  So commercial stations filing applications on September 4 or afterward need to remember to pay the new fees, or risk having their applications returned.

Another obvious date that we omitted from the long list of September regulatory dates is the first day of the Lowest Unit Rate window for the November election.  45 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election, political candidates (whether Federal, state or local – see our post here) can only be charged the lowest unit rate that any commercial advertiser is paying for advertising spots of the same class that are running during the same time period.  See our articles here and here for more information about the lowest unit charge window which, for the November election, starts on September 7.  For more information about political broadcasting rules generally, see our Political Broadcasting Guide.

A somewhat less obvious date is the deadline for filing TV shared services agreements.  In its 2017 order reconsidering the FCC’s decision in its last Quadrennial Review of the ownership rules, the FCC decided to retain the previously announced requirement that TV stations file shared services agreements with the FCC.  We wrote about that obligation here, addressing the broad definition that the FCC gave to a shared services agreement.  The FCC gave stations 180 days to comply for any agreements that were already in effect at the time the new rule became effective (new agreements being required to be filed “in a timely fashion” once entered into).  Time flies, and that 180-day deadline is now upon us, on September 19.

Finally, the FCC on Monday released a Public Notice setting out all the deadlines that must be met by TV stations that are being repacked following the Incentive Auction.  With September 14 starting the testing period for TV stations assigned to move to their new channels in Phase 1 of the repacking, this notice is very timely.  The notice talks about the deadlines in the transition and the various notices and public education requirements that stations early in the repacking schedule should be contemplating right now.  The Public Notice also notes that any Phase 1 station that is unlikely to meet the required November 30 deadline for completion of their transition to their new channel must file an extension by September 4.

So add these to the list of September dates that we gave you yesterday, as well as any other specific deadline that may apply to your own station, and you can see that the academic year will begin with a bang.  Get ready for a busy month ahead!

September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Annual Regulatory Fees; Nationwide EAS Test; Comment Dates on FM Translator Interference, Audio Competition, Children’s Television Requirements, and Reimbursement for LPTV and FM Repacking Costs; and More

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 27 Aug 2018 3:04 pm

While September is one of those months with neither EEO reports nor Quarterly Issues Programs or Children’s Television Reports, that does not mean that there are no regulatory matters of importance to broadcasters. Quite the contrary – as there are many deadlines to which broadcasters should be paying attention. The one regulatory obligation that in recent years has come to regularly fall in September is the requirement for commercial broadcasters to pay their regulatory fees – the fees that they pay to the US Treasury to reimburse the government for the costs of the FCC’s operations. We don’t know the specific window for filing those fees yet, nor do we know the exact amount of the fees. But we do know that the FCC will require that the fees be paid before the October 1 start of the next fiscal year, so be on the alert for the announcement of the filing deadline which should be released any day now.

September 20 brings the next Nationwide Test of the EAS system, and the obligations to submit information about that test to the FCC. As we have written before (here and here), the first of those forms, ETRS Form One, providing basic information about each station’s EAS status is due today, August 27. Form Two is due the day of the test – reporting as to whether or not the alert was received and transmitted. More detailed information about a station’s participation in the test is due by November 5 with the filing of ETRS Form Three. Also on the EAS front, comments are due by September 10 on the FCC’s proposal to require stations to report on any false or inaccurate EAS reports originated from their stations. See our articles here and here.

September also brings comment deadlines in numerous other important FCC proceedings. September 5 is the date for reply comments on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on how to simplify the resolution of complaints about interference from new FM translators (see our summaries here and here). One of the most debated issues in the initial comments is whether to ignore complaints from full-power FM licensees and other existing FM broadcasters if those complaints originate outside of the complaining station’s 54 dBu contour. Many FM licensees, as well as the licensees of LPFM stations who are also protected from interference from new translators, contend that a substantial portion of their listening audience resides outside that contour and should not be left unprotected from new translators who interfere with such listening.

Reply comments are due September 10 on the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry as to whether to create a new class of C4 FM stations, and to make changes to allow for more short-spaced FM stations using Section 73.215. See our articles here and here on that proceeding.

Congress has also requested that the FCC provide it with a report on the state of competition in the Audio Marketplace. As we wrote here and here, we expect that, while this report is directed to Congress so that it can use this information in assessing statutory changes, as the report will be prepared at the same time as the FCC is working on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in its next Quadrennial Review which will likely review the radio ownership rules, the facts gathered in preparing the report to Congress are likely to be important in the Quadrennial review. Comments on this report to Congress are due September 24.

The potential for changes in the Children’s Television rules, particularly the rules mandating three hours of weekly educational and informational programming directed to children on each programming stream broadcast by a TV station, are being reviewed by the FCC. Comments on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking at potential changes in these rules (about which we wrote here) are also due September 24.

As the Incentive Auction repacking marches on (with the testing period for repacked stations in Phase 1 of the repacking starting in September), the FCC is also considering the reimbursement of expenses incurred by LPTV stations, TV translators, and FM broadcasters whose operations are affected by the repacking. Comments are due September 26 on the FCC’s proposals on eligibility and administration of the finds to reimburse these stations. See our article here for more details on these proposals.

Commercial radio stations that have been paying the newest Performing Rights Organization, GMR, under an interim license while litigation continues between GMR and the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) to determine if GMR should be subject to any sort of antitrust regulation, have an interim license that expires at the end of September (see our article here). As the litigation is unlikely to be resolved in the next few months, GMR is reportedly offering yet another extension of its interim license through March 31, 2019. Look out for notice of that extension directly from GMR but, if you have not received it, you may want to reach out to them before the end of the month.

And watch for the agenda of the FCC meeting on September 26. That agenda should be released next week, and we will see what broadcast items may be on it just in time for the Radio Show at the end of the month. Plenty of issues to keep broadcasters busy. As always, check with your legal advisor to make sure that there are no other legal issues that may affect your station’s operations.


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