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


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.

 

Comments Dates Set on FCC Rulemaking to Explore Reform of Children’s TV Rules – What Is Being Asked?

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Thu 26 Jul 2018 4:52 pm

The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Children’s Television has been published in the Federal Register, setting the dates for comments on the questions that the FCC asks about changing the rules – particularly those rules dealing with educational and informational programming directed to children. Comments are due September 24, with replies due October 23. See the FCC Public Notice on these comment dates for more information. With the dates now set, it is worth reviewing the questions that the FCC asks about whether changes in the video marketplace require that the rules for educational and informational programming be changed.

The rules currently require that a television station broadcast an average of three hours per week of “core” educational and informational programming directed to children 16 and under to avoid special scrutiny by the FCC at license renewal time. Core programming must run between 7 AM and 10 PM, and must be aired at regularly scheduled times in blocks of at least half an hour. For stations that multicast, each multicast stream has an independent 3 hour per week obligation, though the required children’s programming for one multicast channel can run instead on another multicast channel (or on the station’s main channel) as long as it reaches a comparable MVPD audience. What changes are being considered?

The FCC asks questions in a number of areas. It asks many questions as to whether television viewing habits of children have changed in the more than 12 years since the last major revision in these rules to justify new changes. General questions are posed about whether children’s services from cable and satellite programming, online programming and even public television programming have changed the needs of children for educational and informational programming by commercial broadcasters. Also, has the method of consumption of video programming – on more of an on-demand rather than “appointment” basis – minimized the need for rigid schedules of children’s educational programming? And has the proliferation of short online programs changed attention spans so that half-hour blocks of programming are no longer the best way to convey information to children?

Based on these broader themes, the FCC asks questions including:

  • Does core programming still need to be in blocks of 30 minutes, or can shorter amounts of programming be used to meet the required amount of children’s programming? If shorter amounts of programming can be used, should it be counted on a minute-by-minute basis toward meeting the current 3 hour requirement, or can some other compliance metric be used?
  • Given the changes in “appointment” television expectations, does core programming still need to be at regular times and during the hours from 7 AM to 10 PM?
  • Does core programming still need to have the “E/I” logo on screen? Do stations still need to provide specific information about core programs to TV Guide and other program guides, or can broadcasters be counted on to promote their programs so that viewers can find it?
  • Are there ways to streamline the reporting requirements? Should, for instance, the Quarterly Children’s television reports be filed only once a year? Should promises about future programming be eliminated, so the reports only report on what was actually broadcast?
  • How should the FCC’s renewal processing guidelines be changed? Should stations still need to air three hours per week, averaged on a 6 month basis, or can the average be on a yearly basis? Should minimums still be required each week? The FCC has always allowed a station to meet its obligations by other means that demonstrate its service to children, but stations have not used that alternative as no one knows what would be an acceptable alternative to the three hour per week average. Should some specific alternatives be provided, and if so, what are they?
  • Is a mandatory 3 hours per week of educational and informational programming still necessary? Even if necessary on the station’s main channel, is that same obligation necessary on each subchannel?
  • Should non-broadcast efforts be a substitute for the broadcast of educational and informational programming by broadcasters? Could funding such programming on a noncommercial station in a broadcaster’s market, or even on another commercial station, be a substitute?

These and other questions are being asked by the Commission to determine how broadcasters will need to meet the needs of children in the future. If you have comments on these controversial issues, make them known by the filing deadlines announced yesterday.

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

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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.

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