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

FCC Issues Reminder of September 23 Deadline for ETRS Form Three Reporting on Nationwide EAS Test Results

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 9 Sep 2019 5:15 pm

Last week, the FCC issued Public Notice reminding all broadcasters and other EAS participants of the obligation to file their ETRS Form Three report by September 23. That form provides details about a station’s participation in the August 7 Nationwide EAS Test (see our article here about the test and the required ETRS filings) – including from where the station received the EAS alert (assuming that it did receive the alert) and any complications or issues that may have arisen in connection with the Nationwide test. With the anniversary of 9/11 only days away, this reminder from the FCC should be taken seriously as the Commission looks for ways to make their EAS system more reliable and robust in the event of emergencies that necessitate its use in the future.


Effective Date of New Rules for Email Notices of Retransmission Consent/Must Carry Elections October 29, 2019

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 9 Sep 2019 5:14 pm

Just before Labor Day, the FCC published in the Federal Register the new rules regarding notice of Must Carry and Retransmission Consent elections. Those rules, as we summarized in more detail here, provide that, before the next election cycle deadline on October 1, 2020, TV stations need to provide notice in their online public files as to whether they elect carriage through must-carry or retransmission consent for the three-year cycle that begins on January 1, 2021. MVPDs must provide information in the FCC’s database of a contact person at the MVPD for revised notices. In the next election cycle, stations can give electronic notice to those designated contacts about changes in their elections for the next cycle. These rules will become effective on October 29 and require broadcasters to provide contact information for carriage inquiries in their online public file by July 31, 2020, while MVPDs must provide contact information either in their online public file or in the FCC’s Cable Operations and Licensing System (COALS) by that date. The Federal Register also gave notice of the deadline for comments on the FCC’s further inquiry as to how to deal in this system with entities (like “qualified low power TV stations”) that do not have a public file or MVPDs (like Open Video Systems) that do not maintain a COALS account. Comments are due September 30, with replies due October 15.

FCC Reaches Two Consent Decrees Imposing Substantial Fines on TV Stations for Violations of the Children’s Television Rules in the Last Renewal Cycle

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Fri 6 Sep 2019 4:31 pm

The FCC’s recent action reforming many of the rules governing the broadcast of TV programming serving the educational and informational needs of children will go into effect on September 16 (see our articles here and here). Yet, at the same time as it was announcing the process by which these rules will be implemented (see our post from yesterday), it released two consent decrees resolving apparent violations of the old KidVid rules revealed in license renewal applications filed many years ago. In one case, the FCC agreed to a financial penalty of $109,000 to be paid by Nexstar in connection with violations at two stations – one in Arkansas and one in Texas. These violations apparently first arose in connection with license renewals filed almost 15 years ago. In another case involving a religious commercial station in Pullman, Washington, the financial penalty was $30,700 for violations that were identified in connection with its 2014 license renewal application. In both cases, the licensees agreed, in addition to the financial penalties, to institute compliance plans to ensure that future violations of the children’s television rules do not occur at any commonly owned stations.

The Consent Decree entered into by the Washington station penalized the station for preempting children’s programming for station fundraisers so that it did not meet the obligation to air an average of 3 hours of weekly “core programming” addressing children’s educational and informational needs. Certain supplemental programming claimed by the station to substitute for the underperformance was aired outside of the hours in which “core programming” must air to receive credit toward a station’s obligations (currently those hours are 7 AM to 10 PM, but they will expand to 6 AM to 10 PM on September 16). The FCC also identified errors in the Quarterly Children’s Television Reports submitted by the station (as we reported yesterday, these reports will be replaced by an annual filing after the final quarterly report that is due by October 10).

The issues raised against the Nexstar stations also involved inadequate amounts of core programming, principally due to network preemptions for sports events. According to the FCC, in some instances the preempted programming was not rescheduled by the station. The FCC also noted that several Quarterly Reports were not filed on time and the stations also failed to admit to the shortfalls in their license renewal applications. For one station, the company also admitted to failing to provide program guide publishers with information about the core programs that were broadcast (instead relying on the networks and syndicators to provide that information which apparently was not done – thus the FCC imposed the penalty on the station, which has the responsibility for compliance).

With license renewals coming up for television stations starting in June 2020, broadcasters should be scrutinizing their past performance now to identify any problems that may exist so that they can determine how such issues will be addressed in the license renewal application. In some of these cases, it appears that the FCC was not able to rely on information in the stations’ renewal applications, but instead had to review the Quarterly Reports and seek other information from the stations, perhaps contributing to the long delays in the processing of these license renewals. To avoid the uncertainty with long-delayed license renewals, start planning for renewals now, and be sure that your station is complying with all of its children’s television obligations.


FCC Issues Public Notice on Implementation of New Children’s Television Rules and the Filing of October’s Quarterly Children’s Television Reports

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Thu 5 Sep 2019 4:50 pm

Many of the revisions to the FCC’s Children’s Television rules become effective on September 16 (as we wrote here), though there are portions of the revised rules whose implementation will be delayed pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The FCC earlier this week released a Public Notice detailing which provisions will become effective on September 16. That notice also discusses how stations should report on their educational and informational programming directed to children on their next Quarterly Children’s Television Report, due to be filed at the FCC by October 10.

As we noted in our earlier article on the effective date, many of the new rules, including the following, will go into effect on September 16: (1) allowing “core programming” (i.e., the programs which meet the educational and informational programming requirements) to air starting at 6 AM (instead of 7 AM under the current rules); (2) eliminating the obligation to air additional core programming for each multicast channel operated by a station; (3) allowing some core programming to air on multicast streams instead of the main program channel; (4) allowing some short-form programming to substitute for core programming of at least 30 minutes; and (5) allowing more flexibility in the preemption of children’s programs. Not going into effect for now are rules relating to changes in the notifications to program guides, rules relating to public notice of preemptions and “second homes” of preempted programs, and the elimination of the need for noncommercial TV stations to display the E/I symbol in children’s programs. Also awaiting OMB approval and thus not yet effective are the rules changing the FCC reporting requirements from a quarterly obligation to an annual one. Yesterday’s public notice addressed how stations are supposed to complete their Quarterly Reports in this interim period.

For the Quarterly Children’s Television Programming Report due to be filed at the FCC by October 10, stations will report on their performance under the old rules through September 15. Programming aired after September 15 will be addressed on the station’s new Annual Report to be filed in January 2020. Thus, the amount of average core programming per week reported in the October filing will be averaged over the 11 weeks that the old rules were in place. The broadcaster will not need to respond to the Form’s question about children’s programming that it plans to air in the future, a requirement that has been eliminated.

For the period after September 15 through the end of the year, the broadcaster will report on its performance on the first Annual Children’s Television Report which will be due no later than January 30, 2020. A station’s programming obligations will be computed based on the pro rata share of the year after the effective date of the new rules. The FCC expects the new form to be approved by OMB before the form needs to be filed. Watch for a public notice about the approval of the new form and the instructions for filing in January.

It is interesting that these instructions on the new rules were issued one day before significant fines were imposed on two stations that had not complied with the old rules during the last renewal term (see the FCC decisions here and here). We will write more about those cases tomorrow.

Correction: FCC Regulatory Fees Due September 24 – And You Can Start Paying Now

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 28 Aug 2019 10:35 pm

The FCC issued a Public Notice today, announcing that its regulatory fee filing system was now taking payments – and that payments are due by 11:59 PM Eastern Time, on September 24.  Yesterday, we indicated that the fees were due on September 30.  We based that on a sentence in the FCC’s Order that said that was the deadline for the fees – but the FCC must have been talking about its deadline for collecting the fees, not the deadline for fee filers to pay the fees – as today’s Public Notice makes clear.  So make sure you file before September 24 to avoid big penalties.

Broadcasters should review  the Media Bureau’s Fee Filing Guide, available here.

Correction: FCC Regulatory Fees Due September 24 – And You Can Start Paying Now

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 28 Aug 2019 10:35 pm

The FCC issued a Public Notice today, announcing that its regulatory fee filing system was now taking payments – and that payments are due by 11:59 PM Eastern Time, on September 24.  Yesterday, we indicated that the fees were due on September 30.  We based that on a sentence in the FCC’s Order that said that was the deadline for the fees – but the FCC must have been talking about its deadline for collecting the fees, not the deadline for fee filers to pay the fees – as today’s Public Notice makes clear.  So make sure you file before September 24 to avoid big penalties.

Broadcasters should review  the Media Bureau’s Fee Filing Guide, available here.

2019 FCC Regulatory Fees to be Due By September 30 – Commission Issues Fee Order

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 28 Aug 2019 2:44 pm

The FCC on Tuesday released its Report and Order on regulatory fees.  The Order says that the fees will be due by September 30.  The FCC should soon issue additional guidance about the exact filing dates and procedures.

In the Order, the FCC did reduce the fees for radio somewhat from those proposed in their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in May.  However, it was not the decrease sought by many broadcast groups.  The radio fees, even though reduced, still result in an increase from last year’s fees.  The FCC attributed that increase both to a somewhat smaller number of stations and an increase in the operating costs of the FCC that had to be shared among all regulated entities.

The FCC rejected requests to review its prior decision to begin to base TV regulatory fees on the population served by the TV station, rather than based on its DMA.  The FCC did, however, announce that it would commence a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to decide whether to reduce the fees paid by VHF stations in the future.  Some broadcasters argued that because the real-world digital signal of VHF stations is inferior to that of UHF stations even when both are predicted to serve the same area, VHF stations in fact reach fewer viewers.  The FCC will consider that issue for 2020 reg fees.

Also to be considered in this Further Notice is whether stations should pay lower regulatory fees when they are being “incubated” in the FCC’s incubator program designed to encourage new broadcast owners.  Comments on the Further Notice will be due 30 days after the FCC’s Further Notice is published in the Federal Register.

While further procedural details on reg fee filing will be coming from the FCC, the Order did emphasize two points.  It made clear that the licensee who holds the station license on the date that the fees are due is responsible for paying those fees, even though the fees are based on the status of the station as of October 1, 2018.

Also, the FCC made clear that it will not issue blanket fee waivers for stations in bankruptcy.  While the FCC may waive regulatory fees for a licensee that can demonstrate a unique financial hardship, the FCC made clear in the Order that bankruptcy was not automatically a demonstration of that inability to pay.  Instead, a licensee in bankruptcy proceedings must show why it filed for bankruptcy, whether it is liquidating its assets or merely doing a reorganization, whether the bankruptcy estate has sufficient funds to pay other creditors, and similar factors.  Whether a bankrupt company will receive a waiver will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Watch for more details on filing procedures shortly.


September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Reg Fees, Children’s TV Rule Changes, EEO Comments, EAS Reports, License Renewal Obligations and More

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 26 Aug 2019 1:41 pm

With the summer winding down, you can expect that come September, like everywhere else, Washington will leap back to life and the government will try to accomplish what they can before the end of the year. That will no doubt mean some regulatory actions (and potentially court actions and legislative actions) affecting broadcasters this Fall, though what they are remains to be seen. In the meantime, there is plenty to keep broadcasters busy. While September is one of those months in which there are few of the normally recurring filing deadlines (no EEO reports, renewal filings or quarterly reports need to be submitted during the month), there is one big deadline that no commercial broadcaster should forget – the filing of annual regulatory fees.

We understand that there is an order circulating at the FCC right now to set the final amount of the regulatory fees for the year. As these fees must be paid before October 1 when the government’s new fiscal year begins, we can expect that order shortly, with fees due at some point in September. As the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposed significant unexplained increases in the fees paid by radio, and a change to the methodology used to compete TV fees, moving from a DMA-based fee to one calculated based on an individual station’s predicted coverage (which had the effect of raising some fees, especially for high-powered VHF stations, while lowering others), a number of broadcasters and the NAB complained about those proposals. Watch for the FCC’s decision in the coming days to see how it addresses these complaints about the proposed fees, and to see when the fees will be due.

In addition to regulatory fees, many of the FCC’s new rules on the provision of educational and informational children’s television programming go into effect on September 16. See our articles here and here highlighting the rules going into effect – including the elimination of the three-hour per week obligation for educational and informational programming for children for each multicast channel of programming. Petitions for reconsideration of the changes made in these rules are also due on the 16th, so we may not have seen the last of the arguments about the appropriate children’s obligations for TV broadcasters. The FCC also issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the children’s television docket, asking questions including whether a station could satisfy its children’s educational programming obligations by subsidizing programming on another station in the same market. These comments are also due on September 16. And the FCC is expected to issue additional guidance about how completing the next quarterly Form 398 children’s television programming reports, currently due on October 10 (see our additional discussion on this topic below).

Comments are due on September 20 in the FCC’s proceeding to look at the effectiveness of the EEO rules. We summarized some of the issues in that proceeding here, here and here. The issues raised by the Commission seem to suggest that the FCC is looking for ways to be more aggressive in EEO enforcement – even raising the suggestion that some broadcasters are not bothering to send out notices of job openings at their stations until after those openings have already been filled. Some small broadcasters, on the other hand, have suggested that EEO compliance should not be analyzed based on the number of employees in local markets, but instead should be looked at company-wide, and that the FCC’s EEO outreach obligations should only be imposed on companies with 50 or more employees nationwide. There are sure to be comments filed by the September 20 deadline – add your voice by that date.

Remember that Nationwide EAS test that ran on August 7? The final ETRS Form – Form 3 – is due by September 23. All EAS participants are supposed to report on their success or failure in receiving the test by that date, giving details on each station’s experience.

September 3 (as the 1st on during Labor Day weekend) is the date for petitions to deny the first round of radio license renewal applications filed by stations in Maryland, DC, Virginia and West Virginia. We should see whether there are any patterns to the objections that are filed. For stations without issues, we would expect license renewals to begin to be granted in the second half of the month, as the licenses expire at the end of the month. While stations with renewal applications on file have the authority to continue operating even if their renewals have not been granted before October 1, if they are not granted by then, some inquiry is likely needed to see what is holding things up.

Radio stations in the Carolinas, who filed renewals on August 1, should be running their post-filing announcements on September 1 and September 16. Stations with renewals due on October 1 (radio stations in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) should be running their pre-filing announcements on those same dates. See our post here for more information about these announcements.

And start looking forward to October, when many of the usual obligations come back. Quarterly Issues Programs lists will be due for inclusion in the online public files of all full-power stations by October 10, when stations detail the issues that faced their communities in the current quarter and the programming that they broadcast to address those issues. As we have written many times (see, for instance, our article here), these lists are the only FCC-mandated records as to how a station has served its community of license. Stations should be sure that they are doing a thorough job documenting their community service programming, as these lists will no doubt be scrutinized during the license renewal process.

Normally, Quarterly Children’s Programming Reports would be due by October 10. However, among the recent changes to the children’s television rules was the decision to change reporting about educational and informational programming to a yearly, rather than quarterly, obligation. We are waiting for FCC instructions as to whether this change will take effect before the October 10 quarterly report or whether that report will still be due. The FCC may also issue additional guidance on completing certifications of compliance with the FCC’s commercial limits during children’s programming aired in the Third Quarter, and certifications of compliance with the requirements concerning the display of website addresses during children’s programming.

October 10 is also the deadline for TV stations that are being repacked to submit an FCC Form 2100, Schedule 387 transition progress report. Quarterly reports are due the 10th of the month following the end of each calendar quarter, and additional reports are due closer to the station’s phase completion date and after completing the transition. Phase 5 will end on September 6, 2019 and Phase 6 will begin on that date, ending on October 18, 2019.

October 1 will be the date for commercial and noncommercial full-power radio and TV (including Class A) stations in Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Guam, the Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees to include their Annual EEO Public File Report in their online public inspection files (and add a link to that report on the homepage of each of their stations).

There is no easing back to reality after summer vacations – plenty to do in September to keep every broadcaster busy. And, as always, we’ve only scratched the surface highlighting issues that we think to be generally important. Consult your own counsel to see if there are other important dates that may affect your station.

Effective Date of Most of the Changes to the Children’s Television Rules – September 16

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Fri 16 Aug 2019 2:23 pm

Notice was published in the Federal Register today of the FCC’s changes in the children’s television rules – setting the effective date for most of those new rules as September 16. The elimination of the obligation to air three hours of children’s educational and informational programming for each digital multicast channel will expire on that date.  The ability to count children’s educational programming broadcast as early as 6 AM toward the broadcaster’s obligations to run 3 hours per week of such programming on its primary channel will also take effect that day, as will the ability to meet that 3-hour requirement with up to one hour of programming broadcast on a multicast channel.  A number of other changes, particularly in the ability of a broadcaster to compute its compliance based on a quarterly obligation rather than a weekly one and liberalizing the preemption rules, are also to take effect on September 16.    See our summary here of the changes in the rules.

Rules not yet taking effect are those rules that impose new or different paperwork requirements.  So the change in reporting obligations to an annual FCC filing instead of a quarterly one remains pending until approved by the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act.  The rule amending the obligation to inform program guides about certain aspects of children’s programming (including the ages to which the programs are targeted) is also still being reviewed.  The FCC is expected to issue additional guidance about how (or whether) to complete the next quarterly FCC Form 398 children’s television programming report, which is currently due October 10.  The FCC is moving to an annual report, but because of these Paperwork Reduction Act requirements, the new form has not been approved yet.

Moving Closer to TV Translator, LPTV and FM Reimbursement for TV-Band Repacking Costs

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Thu 15 Aug 2019 2:58 pm

Months ago, the FCC approved reimbursing TV translators, LPTV stations, FM stations, and FM translators that incurred costs as a result of the repacking of TV stations into less spectrum following the TV incentive auction (see our post here).  Congress last year allocated the FCC money so that LPTV stations and TV translators forced to change channels and FM facilities forced to relocate temporarily or permanently because of work on the towers on which they were located could be reimbursed for their costs caused by this repacking.  The FCC has even published a list of expenses that will be routinely reimbursed when incurred by these stations due to the repacking.  But the reimbursement process has not yet begun, as the FCC paperwork to allow for the reimbursement process had not been approved by the Office of Management and Budget as being compliant with the Paperwork Reduction Act – until yesterday.

In yesterday’s Federal Register, the OMB’s approval of the FCC Forms was published, meaning that the FCC can now start the reimbursement process.  Look for an FCC announcement shortly announcing when affected stations can start submitting their reimbursement requests.  Get your bookkeepers and accountants busy collecting details of the expenses that can be reimbursed, as the time for filing for that reimbursement should be upon us in the very near future.

Music of Stranger Things review – sonic savagery from the Upside Down

Delivered... Al Horner | Scene | Thu 8 Aug 2019 12:56 pm

Royal Festival Hall, London
Recreating the music from the hit TV series, Survive, AKA Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon, manage to scale up the scares

One of the strangest things about Stranger Things, Netflix’s hit sci-fi mystery set in 1980s Indiana, is the way it’s made stars of Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon. The Austin analogue aficionados were electronic music cult-concerns, making unfashionable retro synthscapes with their band Survive, before the series’ creators, the Duffer brothers, came calling. The duo’s pulsing score to the show’s first season in 2016 propelled them into bumper-sized venues at home and abroad, as audiences clamoured to see the streaming smash’s arpeggiating melodies and echoing snare slaps recreated live.

Three years and another two Stranger Things OSTs later, their biggest British show to date feels at once well-earned (Stein and Dixon have been honing their atmospheric sound since 2009) and like something out of the Upside Down. Tangerine Dream-inspired noise-makers like them are usually confined to the underground, not 2,700-seater auditoriums.

Continue reading...

FCC Starts Rulemaking to Look at LPFM Issues and the Protection of Channel 6 TVs by Noncommercial Radio Stations and Whether “Franken FMs” Can Continue

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 6 Aug 2019 4:49 pm

Last week, the FCC started a new proceeding through the adoption of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to review several restrictions that currently apply to Low Power FM stations.  While doing so, it will also review the current rules, dating from the analog television days, restricting certain FM operations in the non-commercial reserved band of the FM dial where those operations are near Channel 6 TV stations.  Comments will be due on this proposal 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register, with Replies due 15 days later.

The LPFM proposals look at a number of issues.  The Commission asks if LPFM stations should be allowed to operate with directional antennas, which are currently routinely barred given that these antennas may be more difficult to operate and maintain.  When the rules were originally adopted, there was a fear that LPFM licensees, who may not have a technical background or substantial resources for engineering support, could not maintain those antennas so as to protect other FM stations operating on the same and adjacent channels.  Similar concerns currently limit LPFM stations from using on-channel boosters to fill in holes in their service area.  The FCC asks if these prohibitions can be lifted as the LPFM industry has become more mature, allowing LPFMs to use both directional antennas and on-channel boosters without risking increased interference to other stations.

The FCC also proposes to change the definition of a minor change for LPFM stations. Now, LPFM minor changes that can be made outside of an LPFM filing window are limited to site changes of a distance of 5.6 kilometers or less.  The change would allow a move to be treated as a minor change, as long as the 1 mv/m of the proposed site overlaps with the 1 mv/m of the current site.  A few other technical changes in the LPFM rules are also proposed.

The Channel 6 proposed change is the one proposal in this NPRM that is not limited to LPFM stations.  Currently, the FCC rules limit the power and location of any station, LPFM or full-power noncommercial stations, in the reserved FM band (below 92 FM) where those applications are near to Channel 6 TV stations.  The lower part of the FM band is adjacent to Channel 6. In the analog world, that meant that FM stations could interfere with the signals of Channel 6 TV stations.  It also allowed TV stations, particularly LPTV stations, to transmit audio signals that could be heard on FM radios on 87.9 or 87.7 FM.  In a number of markets, LPTV stations are offering audio services – which some have deemed “Franken FMs.”

In the digital world, the FCC suggests that the interference to Channel 6 should be much less or nonexistent, suggesting that LPFM or full-power noncommercial stations should no longer be required to protect Channel 6 operations.   The FCC also asks if, at the end of the digital transition for LPTV stations in July 2021, LPTVs should still be able to continue to generate an analog signal to permit these virtual FM stations (see our prior posts on these stations here and here).

So watch for the comment dates on these matters affecting LPFM stations and full-power alike – likely due sometime this Fall.

Court Overturns Requirement that Prescription Drug Advertisers Include Price Information in TV Ads

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 16 Jul 2019 10:08 pm

Last week, a federal District Court ruled that the US Department of Health and Human Services did not have the authority to require that drug manufacturers include pricing information on their television commercialsWe wrote about that requirement, here – a requirement that was supposed to go into effect this summer.  However, the District Court judge found that there was no statutory authority on which HHS could rely for the adoption of this rule.  HHS argued that its authority to adopt rules to administer the Social Security program was sufficient to adopt the advertising requirement as that requirement would lead to lower prices for drugs purchased by those using Social Security.  But, the Court found, Congress did not include any specific language giving HHS authority to regulate advertising on prescription drugs, nor did the Court believe that the required disclosure of pricing information was necessary to “administer” the Social Security program, even if it did have the effect of lowering prices as HHS hoped.  Given this decision, the rules will not go into effect.  Barring an appeal by HHS, it would appear that Congress will have to take action before these rules could be adopted.  So, for now, TV broadcasters will not be seeing mandatory disclosures of drug prices on the ads that they run.

Actions Taken at July Meeting – FCC Adopts Changes to Children’s Television Rules and to TV MVPD Carriage Election Notices Procedures

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 15 Jul 2019 8:44 am

The FCC at its open meeting last week took two actions important to TV broadcasters – modifying its children’s television rules and changing the process by which TV stations give notice to MVPDs of their must carry or retransmission consent elections.  On the children’s television rules, the FCC largely adopted the proposals in their draft order, which we summarized here.  The major additions to the final version of the Order (here) were the individual statements of the Commissioners, where the Republicans supported the decision as a common-sense reaction to changing market conditions (including an increase in the number of over-the-air stations since the rules were initially adopted, as well as all sorts of new media competition), while the Democrats worried that moving some long-form educational and informational programming addressed to children off the broadcaster’s primary program streams, and the replacement of some of that programming with short-form programming, would have an adverse impact on children – particularly children in lower-income households with less access to digital alternatives.  The new rules will become effective after their publication in the Federal Register.  Comment dates on the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to consider whether TV broadcasters can be relieved of some children’s television obligations by supporting the development of educational and informational programming on other TV stations will also be determined after Federal Register publication.

Also adopted at the meeting was a Report and Order setting out new rules allowing TV broadcasters to give notice of their next set of must-carry or retransmission consent notifications electronically rather than by certified mail, as is currently required.  The Order sets out a process where, before the next election deadline in October 2020, broadcasters need to include in their online public files a statement as to whether they have elected must-carry or retransmission consent on MVPDs in their market (and, if the station has elected one carriage option for all systems, the notice can be as simple as “Station WXYZ has elected must-carry on all cable systems in the Anytown DMA”).  If the station decides to change that election for any MVPD, they notify the MVPD of the change by email.  MVPDs must register a contact person for the receipt of such notices in their public files and in the FCC’s COALS database, so that broadcasters know who to contact if they are planning to change their election.  The broadcaster emails its notice of a changed election to the cable system (with a copy to a new FCC email address) and puts a copy of the election in its online public file.  The cable system is supposed to electronically acknowledge the receipt of the notice (if it does not, the broadcaster is supposed to call the COALS-registered person at the registered phone number to make sure that the notice has been received – but if there is no response, the FCC and public file notices will suffice.  Of course, not having this information in a TV station’s public file would be a violation of the public file rules.

The rules also will apply to noncommercial stations and satellite carriers. Read the full order to capture other intricacies of the new system – but it should make these notices much less costly for all involved.  The Commission also adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking to adopt similar rules to allow cable operators to give required notices to broadcasters about issues such as a channel repositioning or a change in a system’s headend electronically.  Look for comment dates in that proceeding soon.  All in all, an eventful FCC meeting for TV broadcasters.

July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues Programs and Children’s Television Reports, Renewal Announcements, Copyright Filings, EAS, EEO and More

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Sun 30 Jun 2019 5:18 pm

July is an important month for regulatory filings – even though it is one of those months with no FCC submissions tied to any license renewal dates. Instead, quarterly obligations arise this month, the most important of which will have an impact in the ongoing license renewal cycle that began in June (see last month’s update on regulatory dates, here).  Even though there are no renewal filing deadlines this month, radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and DC must continue their on-air post-filing announcements on the 1st and 16th of the month.  On these same days, pre-filing announcements must be run by radio stations in North and South Carolina, who file their renewals by August 1.  Stations in Florida and Puerto Rico, who file on October 1, should be prepared to start their pre-filing announcements on August 1.  See our article here on pre-filing announcements.

Perhaps the most important date this month is July 10, when all full power AM, FM, Class A TV and full power TV stations must place their quarterly issues/programs lists in their online public inspection files.  The issues/programs list should include details of important issues affecting a station’s community, and the station’s programming aired during April, May, and June that addressed those issues.  The list should include the time, date, duration and title of each program, along with a brief description of each program and how that program relates to a relevant community issue.  We have written many times about the importance of these lists and the fact that the FCC will likely be reviewing online public files for their existence and completeness during the license renewal cycle – and imposing fines on stations that do not have a complete set of these lists for the entire license renewal period (see, for instance, our articles here, here and here).  So be sure to get these important documents – the only official documents that the FCC requires to show how a station has met its overall obligation to serve the public interest – into your online public file by July 10. 

July 10 is also the deadline for TV stations to electronically file with the FCC their quarterly FCC Form 398 children’s programming reports using the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS).  A copy of the form, once filed, should be automatically uploaded by the FCC to the station’s online public inspection file, although station personnel should confirm this step was completed by the FCC as stations retain ultimate responsibility for the contents of their online public files.  TV stations must also complete a certification of compliance with the FCC’s commercial limits during children’s programming aired in the Second Quarter, and that certification must be manually uploaded to the station’s online public file.  TV stations also must complete a certification of compliance with the requirements concerning the display of website addresses during children’s programming.  While the FCC is planning at its July 10 meeting to change these reporting requirements to yearly ones if it adopts the draft order reforming its children’s television rules (we wrote here about that draft order), these revisions will not be effective for many months, so stations should continue to observe this requirement.

Another July 10 deadline is that for TV stations that are being repacked who must submit an FCC Form 2100, Schedule 387 transition progress report.  Quarterly reports are due the 10th of the month following the end of each calendar quarter, and additional reports are due closer to the station’s phase completion date and after completing the transition.  Phase 5 stations do not need to file this quarter because they recently submitted their 10-week Schedule 387 filings.

An annual copyright deadline also falls in July.  Before July 31, all television stations that were carried as a “distant signal” by a cable system during 2018 and that aired a program that they produced for which they own the copyright that was retransmitted by a cable system, should file a copyright royalty claim form in order to make a claim to share in the 2018 cable royalty distribution.

July 10 is also the date by which comments are to be filed with the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division on the possibility of changes to the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees.  These decrees, most fundamentally, require that these two performing rights organizations treat all similarly-situated users of copyrighted music in the same way (no special deals for certain favored users), and give users the right to bring a court action if they believe that the rates proposed for the use of music are not reasonable.  Any fundamental change in these consent decrees could significantly affect the costs of the use of music by broadcasters and other audio companies – so this is a very important proceeding.  See our article here for more information about the current review of these decrees.

All EAS participants need to file updated ETRS Form I by July 3 – updating the basic information for virtually all broadcast stations.  This is in anticipation of the announced August 7 nationwide EAS test.  See our article here for more information.

EEO audit responses from those radio stations covered by the last EEO audit are due July 31 (see our article here about that audit).  The FCC also recently adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking for information about the effectiveness of its current EEO rules.  While comments will not be due until 30 days after this Notice in published in the Federal Register, stations should be considering their comments in this proceeding.

Also coming in August will likely be the FCC decision on regulatory fees which will likely be paid in September.  There are significant questions for broadcasters about those fees – as radio fees are proposed to increase substantially, and TV fees are proposed to move to a system where stations pay on predicted coverage, rather than DMA size.  Watch for the FCC’s decision in this proceeding in August.

While we are in the heart of the summer – and everyone’s mind may be on vacation plans – don’t overlook these important regulatory dates coming up this month.  As always, check with your own counsel or legal adviser to make sure that we have not omitted any important dates that apply to your station this month.

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