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

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.


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.

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