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

Comment Dates Set on FCC Proposal to Abolish Rule Prohibiting Exclusive Use of Unique Tower Sites

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 6 Nov 2019 6:06 pm

At its October open meeting, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking to abolish its rule that bars a broadcast licensee from prohibiting a competitor from using a “unique” transmitter site that it controls. The rule was adopted decades ago and never used. It provides that a license renewal would not be granted to a broadcast licensee who controls a transmitter site that is the only site that could be used by a potential competitor and prohibits that competitor from using the unique site. Given that this rule has never been used, and that there are many more communications towers now than at any time in the past (as well as more broadcast stations), the FCC suggested that the rule was no longer needed to insure that new broadcast services could be provided to the public.

That NPRM has now been published in the Federal Register. Comments are due December 6, with reply comments due on December 23. Given the limited utility of this rule, we would expect few broadcasters will be rushing in to provide their comments on this FCC proposal. But, if this potentially affects your business plans going forward, you now know when you can file your comments in this proceeding.

November Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Ownership Reports, Comment Deadlines, LPTV Reimbursement Filing Deadline, a Forum to Examine the Future of the Broadcast Industry, and More

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 30 Oct 2019 5:21 pm

November is not one of those months with due dates for renewal filings, EEO public file reports or quarterly issues programs reports. Some of those obligations wait until December, when renewal filings for radio stations in Georgia and Alabama are due by December 2 (as December 1 falls on a weekend). Due for uploading on or before December 1 are EEO public file reports for station employment units with 5 or more full-time employees for radio or television stations in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont.

November 1 does signal the first day on which radio and TV stations can file their Biennial Ownership Reports. As we wrote here, the FCC has extended the deadline date for those filings until January 31, 2020 as the FCC is making refinements in its forms in the LMS filing system. Reports are to reflect the licensee’s ownership as of October 1, 2019 so stations have the information that they need and can start filing their reports later this week.

While there are no license renewal filing deadlines in November, post-filing license renewal notices must continue to be broadcast on radio stations that filed their renewals on or before November 1 in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Pre-filing announcements must also be run by the radio stations in Alabama and Georgia that will be filing their renewal applications by December 2. These pre- and post-filing announcements are to be run on the 1st and the 16th of November. And pre-filing announcements for radio stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi must begin on December 1.

Comments are due on the procedures for the upcoming auction for new commercial FM allotments on November 6, though the auction itself will not be held until April 2020 (see our article here). The FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking dealing with the annual regulatory fees paid by VHF television stations and stations involved in an FCC incubator program are due on November 22 (see our article here).

Comments are also due in November on a proposal to adopt more flexible rules for distributed transmission service by television stations that adopt the new NextGen (ATSC 3.0) television transmission standard. Initial comments on that proposal are due on November 12, with reply comments due November 27. See our article here for more information.

Reply Comments on the FCC’s review of its broadcast EEO rules are due November 4 (see our article here on the proceeding). Comments on the FCC’s proceeding to look at whether to change the requirements for providing local public notice of broadcast applications are due on November 18, with reply comments due December 2. See our article here on that proceeding.

LPTV stations and TV translators have until November 14 to file applications for reimbursement of the expenses that they incurred due to repacking issues following the TV incentive auction. See our articles here on the FCC’s extension of the filing deadline to November 14, and here and here on the reimbursement process.

The FCC will also be conducting a Forum on November 21 to review the state of the broadcast industry – looking at radio in the morning and TV in the afternoon. We’ll write more about that Forum tomorrow. For more information about the event, see the FCC’s Public Notice here.

The monthly FCC open meeting, to be held on November 19, will examine two broadcast issues. First, it will look at a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes to allow AM radio broadcasters to operate in an all-digital mode. The FCC’s draft NPRM is available here. The second item is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to eliminate or modify the rule that prohibits simulcast programing on two stations in the same service (AM or FM) if they serve substantially the same area. The draft NPRM is available here.

As always, these are just highlights of the regulatory issues for broadcasters this coming month. Always check with your own counsel and advisors to determine what dates and deadlines might affect your station’s obligations.

Comments Due November 22 on Regulatory Fee Issues for 2020 – Including Whether to Reduce Fees for VHF Stations and Incubated Stations

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Fri 25 Oct 2019 4:12 pm

The FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on annual regulatory fees was published in the Federal Register this week, setting the comment date in that proceeding as November 22, with reply comments due December 23. As we wrote when the FCC’s fee decision for 2019 fees was released, this Further Notice is examining a number of issues. For broadcasters, there are two directly relevant issues. First, there is a question as to whether there should be some reduction of the regulatory fees for VHF television stations and, if so, what that reduction should be. The FCC this year moved to basing regulatory fees for a TV station on its estimated population coverage. Some VHF station owners have argued that, because VHF stations are subject to much more interference and have worse building penetration than do UHF stations, their predicted coverage does not accurately reflect their potential audience as it may for UHF stations, and thus the do not receive the same benefits from their license and the associated regulation as does a UHF station. The Further Notice seeks comment on this issue.

The second issue is whether stations involved in the FCC’s incubator program (about which we wrote here) should receive pay lower fees in order to promote the economic success of these stations owned by new broadcast owners. The hope is that this program will encourage broadcast ownership diversity. While organizations advocating for broadcast diversity have supported this idea, the recent 3rd Circuit decision overturning the FCC’s recent ownership rules and remanding them to the FCC for further consideration (see our article here) has put the incubator program on hold for the time being. Nevertheless, interested parties can file on this question and on the issue of a reduction in fees for VHF stations, by the November 22 deadline.

NAB and APTS Seek Changes in Rules to Allow Greater Use of Distributed Transmission Systems by TV Stations – FCC Seeks Initial Comments on Proposal

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 14 Oct 2019 4:01 pm

The National Association of Broadcasters and APTS (America’s Public Television Stations – the associations of public television stations) have filed a Petition for Rulemaking seeking to expand the area in which licensees can locate distributed transmission system transmitters (also known as single frequency networks), in connection with ATSC 3.0 operations. With the new ATSC 3.0 transmission system soon to be rolled out commercially by some TV stations, multiple transmitters on the same frequency can amplify a station’s signal, rather than causing destructive interference to it. Thus, rather than operating with single big transmitter in the center of a station’s service area, with signal strength decreasing as one moves away from that transmitter, a station could instead construct multiple transmitter sites throughout its service area, providing more uniform coverage and filling in what might otherwise be service gaps within its market in areas blocked by terrain obstructions, or otherwise remote, from the station’s main transmitter site.  NAB and APTS claim that current rules need to be amended to allow stations to best take advantage of the potential for DTS technology.

Under the current rules, TV stations cannot use a distributed transmission site to extend their signals beyond the interference-free contour of the full-power station. Under their proposal, APTS and NAB suggest that these distributed transmission sites could be located anywhere in the market as long as they do not extend the interference contour of the station – for UHF stations, the DTS transmitter’s 36 dBu would not be able to exceed the 36 dBu of the reference station.   The proponents of this idea suggest that it would allow stations to improve service to remote portions of their service areas.

The FCC has put this petition for rulemaking out for public comment. Comments are due by November 12, and reply comments are due by November 27, 2019. This is just a request for preliminary comments as to whether or not the FCC should proceed on this proposal. After receiving comments, the FCC will review them and if they conclude that the proposal has merit and support, the FCC will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking additional comments on a more specific FCC proposal for amending the rules. If you are interested in the NAB/APTS proposal, send in your comments by the November deadline.

FCC Extends Deadline for LPTV and TV Translators to File for Reimbursement for Repacking Expenses – FM Filing Deadline Not Extended

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 9 Oct 2019 4:17 pm

Yesterday, the FCC extended the deadline for LPTV stations and TV translators to file for reimbursement for their expenses incurred in changing channels because of the repacking of the TV band following the TV incentive auction.  These stations were given an extra month until November 15 to file these requests.  See our articles here and here for more information about the reimbursement program.  It is important to note that FM stations, which also can file for reimbursement of expenses incurred from having to change their facilities co-located on TV towers as a result of the repacking, have not been granted any extension.  FM stations still need to seek reimbursement by October 15, the original filing deadline.  FM stations seeking reimbursement need to be working now to meet next week’s deadline.

October Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO, License Renewal, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, the Last Children’s Television Quarterly Report, Repacking Deadlines and More

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 30 Sep 2019 3:09 pm

October is one of the busiest months on the broadcaster’s regulatory calendar. On October 1, EEO Public Inspection file reports are due in the online public file of stations that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees in Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Guam, the Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. An employment unit is one or more commonly controlled stations in the same geographic area that share at least one employee.

October 1 is also the deadline for license renewal filings by radio stations (including FM translators and LPFM stations) in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. On the 1st and 16th of the month, stations in those states, and in North and South Carolina, need to run post-filing announcements on the air informing listeners about the filing of their license renewal applications. Pre-filing announcements about the upcoming filing of license renewal applications by radio stations in Alabama and Georgia also are to run on the 1st and 16th. See our post here on the FCC’s reminder about the pre- and post-filing announcements.

October 10 is the deadline for Quarterly Issues Programs Lists to be uploaded into the FCC-hosted online public inspection file of each full-power radio and television station. As we wrote here, the FCC takes these reports very seriously as they are the only legally-mandated documents showing how a station has served the needs and interests of its service area. With a $15,000 fine and short-term license renewal recently proposed as a penalty for a station in Virginia that had ignored this obligation (see our article here), the FCC has made clear that it continues to emphasize the importance of these reports.

October 10 is also the date for the FCC filing of Quarterly Children’s Television Reports though, as we reported here, this will be the last such report as the Commission is transitioning to a yearly filing reporting on the compliance of TV stations with the children’s television rules. As that article reflects, TV station have the option, as of mid-September, to transition to the new standards for evaluating compliance with these rules.

October 15 is the date for repacked TV stations to file their Transition Status Report. On the 18th, Phase 6 of the repacking ends, and the next day, testing for Phase 7 begins.

October 15 is also the deadline for the filing of reimbursement requests by LPTV stations displaced by the repacking of the TV band and by FM stations that were otherwise affected by the repacking activities of TV stations. We wrote more about the reimbursement process here and here.

October 21 is the deadline for initial comments on the FCC’s proposals for changes in LPFM rules – including proposals for expanded use of directional antennas and booster stations. In that same proceeding, the FCC is taking comments on whether educational band FM stations still need to protect Channel 6 TV stations (or whether the conversion to digital TV operations has eliminated that need). The future of “Franken FMs” (LPTV stations on Channel 6 that use analog audio to broadcast a signal that can be received at 88.7 FM) is also part of this proceeding. See our articles here and here for more about this proceeding.

October 1 is also the snapshot date for the reporting of broadcast station ownership on the Biennial Ownership Reports that will be due by the end of January. Stations will need to report on their ownership as of October 1, even if that ownership changes between now and the deadline for the filing of the reports. The new forms for the reports will not be available until November 1, so stations cannot yet file the reports – but they can begin to prepare for that filing by noting their ownership as of October 1. See our article here on the FCC’s notice of the extension of the filing dates for these reports.

Plenty of deadlines to keep a broadcaster busy. As always, check with your own counsel to make sure that we have not omitted any deadlines that might affect your station.

Court of Appeals Rejects FCC Ownership Decision – Putting All Ownership Reform on Hold

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 24 Sep 2019 4:12 pm

Yesterday, a panel of judges from the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided by a 2 to 1 vote to overturn the FCC’s 2017 decision that made significant changes to its ownership rules (see the decision here).  The Court sent the case back to the FCC for further consideration.  The 2017 decision (see our article here) was the one which ended the ban on the cross ownership of broadcast stations and daily newspapers in the same market and the limits on radio-television cross-ownership.  The 2017 decision also allowed television broadcasters to own two TV stations in markets with fewer than 8 independent owners and made other changes to the radio and TV ownership rules.  Yesterday’s decision also put on hold the FCC’s incubator program meant to assist new owners to acquire radio stations (see our summary of the incubator program here).  All of this was done without any analysis whatsoever as to whether marketplace changes justified the changes to the ownership rules or of the impact that the undoing these rule changes would have on broadcasters and other media companies – including on radio companies hoping for changes in the radio ownership rules in current proceeding to review those rules (see our articles here and here).

What led the Court to overturn the decision if it was not the Court’s disagreement with the FCC’s determination that change in the ownership rules was needed?  This Court, in fact these same three judges, has overturned the FCC three times in the last 15 years, stymieing ownership changes because the Court concluded that the FCC had not sufficiently taken into account the impact that rule changes would have on diversity in the ranks of broadcast owners.  Here, again, the Court determined that the FCC did not have sufficient information on the impact of the rule changes on ownership diversity to conclude that the rule changes were in the public interest – and thus sent the case back to the FCC to obtain that information before making any ownership rule changes.  What led the Court to that conclusion, and what can be done about this decision?

In reviewing the FCC’s decision, which had paid significant attention to minority ownership issues, the Court made several criticisms of the FCC’s methodology, finding that the FCC did not have accurate information about the actual minority ownership of broadcast stations and how it has changed over time.  The Court concluded that without that information, the FCC could not make proper assessments about the impact of the rule changes on diversity in ownership.  The Court also faulted the FCC for not making determinations as to the ownership of broadcast stations by women.  Finally, the Court said that the FCC decision in adopting its incubator program to make small businesses the beneficiaries of the incubation process, rather than making minority or female owners the beneficiaries, did not sufficiently analyze the impact that using the small business definition would have on ownership diversity.  The FCC had found that it could not use racial or gender distinctions to determine the beneficiaries of the incubation process as that would be constitutionally suspect – but the Court concluded that, even so, the FCC needed to assess the impact on diversity of the rules it decided to use.

Note that Court did not decide that any of the rule changes made in 2017 were necessarily problematic.  In fact, the Court said that, even if the FCC determines the rules that it adopts adversely impact minority ownership, those rule changes may still be permissible if the FCC decides that the public interest requires changes in the rules despite their impact on diversity.  So, at the end of the day, the gathering of the required information could lead to the exact same result that the FCC reached in 2017.  The potential for that result seems to be reflected in the opinion of the dissenting judge, who notes that the world has changed in terms of media competition, that the 2017 rule changes were justified based on that change,  and that the needed changes in the rules should not be held up while the FCC is sent on what may be an impossible task of trying to document in a manner satisfactory to the Court’s majority how its rule changes will affect minority ownership.

What happens next?  The Court sent the case back to the FCC for further consideration, where the 2017 decisions would probably be added to those issues already under consideration in the current Quadrennial Review (see our article here on those issues).  However, instead of immediately taking up the Court’s remand, an appeal of this decision is possible.  In fact, Chairman Pai, in his statement after the decision, seems to suggest that the FCC will appeal the decision.  The first step may be to ask the other judges on the Third Circuit to rehear the case to determine if the three-judge panel was correct in its assessment.  An appeal to the Supreme Court is also possible, though that is a much lengthier process that could take longer to resolve than if the FCC considers the matter on its own.  We should see in the next month or so where the FCC decides to go on this matter – and how it affects pending applications that rely on the 2017 rule changes as well as future changes in the ownership rules.

Comment Dates Set on FCC Rulemaking to Review LPFM Rules and FM/TV Channel 6 Issues

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Thu 19 Sep 2019 3:53 pm

The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on LPFM and Channel 6 TV issues, which we wrote about here, was published in the Federal Register today. This sets the deadline for comments in this proceeding as October 21, 2019, with reply comments due by November 4. This proceeding looks at issues including whether to remove all restrictions on LPFM stations’ use of directional antennas as well as whether such stations can use on-channel boosters to fill in gaps in their service areas. The rulemaking will also seek to resolve whether limitations should be lifted on locating FM educational stations near to TV channel 6 stations when the FM station is operating in the reserved band at the low end of the FM dial. The protections of these channel 6 TV stations from reserved-band FMs are based on the performance of analog TV receivers – which have not been a real concern for almost a decade since the TV digital transition. The rulemaking also seeks comments on whether LPTV stations operating on channel 6 can continue, after their digital conversion, to broadcast an analog audio signal capable of being received on most FM receivers (allowing these stations, sometimes referred to as “Franken FMs,” to operate as FM stations). If you are interested in any of these topics, be prepared to submit your comments to the FCC by October 21.

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.


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