By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week (4/16-22), with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- The FCC this week released a Public Notice announcing that it is soliciting public comment on the recent tests of GeoBroadcast Solution’s zonecasting system, which proposes to allow FM boosters to originate some local programming so an FM broadcaster can provide different commercials or news inserts to different parts of its service area. Comment dates will be announced after this notice is published in the Federal Register (Public Notice). One party, NABAB (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters), wasted no time, meeting with FCC staff to support the deployment of the zonecasting system, arguing that it would give smaller stations a new tool with which to compete in their markets (NABOB ex parte). This position is contrary to that taken by the NAB, which we noted last week.
- Another presentation on a controversial issue was made to FCC decision-makers last week when the organizations representing the affiliates of the four major television networks asked that the FCC adopt rules to treat for purposes of the retransmission consent rules virtual cable systems delivering multichannel video programming through online platforms like cable and satellite television providers. The affiliates suggested that this would be so that local TV stations can guide retransmission consent negotiations (Affiliates ex parte). When the FCC 7 years ago last asked for comments on treating online linear video programming providers as MVPDs for purposes of the FCC rules, it noted many issues raised by the proposal, issues we summarized here.
- The FCC Commissioners this week upheld a Media Bureau decision to grant an application for a new FM translator near San Diego, California after an opposing party filed for review and dismissal of the application. The application was granted after the applicant had been given an opportunity to amend its application to resolve a perceived interference issue. The FCC determined that applicants in translator windows should be able to amend their applications to non-adjacent channels to resolve interference issues, as long as the applicant specified a new channel that was open in the area that the applicant planned to serve. The FCC also determined that, in allowing such an amendment, the alternative channel must not only have no current stations operating on it, but there cannot be any dismissed applications for new stations on that channel if an appeal of the dismissal is still pending, as resolution of such an appeal could result in the amended translator application having no viable channel. (Order)
- The FCC resolved another group of mutually exclusive applications filed in last year’s window for new reserved-band noncommercial stations. One of the applicants, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association (“SCTCA”) proposed to serve Tribal lands and was tentatively selected to receive the construction permit as the FCC gives a preference to a federally recognized Native American Tribe or Alaska Native Village proposing to serve Tribal land. In selecting SCTCA, the FCC waived the requirement that, to qualify for the preference, at least 50% of the proposed 60 dBµ contour be comprised of the applicant’s Tribal Lands and that at least 50% of the population covered must be members of the tribes. Because the tribal areas were so diffuse, and the population of the area so great, the FCC waived the rule on population coverage to allow the numerous small Southern California reservations to receive this tribal service. (Order)
- Following last month’s filing of applications that would transfer control of dozens of TEGNA stations to Standard General, the FCC set the pleading cycle deadlines. Interested parties must file comments by May 23, 2022. Oppositions to those comments are due by June 7, 2022. Replies to those oppositions are due by June 17, 2022. (Public Notice)
- On our Broadcast Law Blog, we provided more context on the FCC’s recent decision determining that a purported write-in candidate for a US Congressional seat was not entitled to reasonable access to buy advertising time for his campaign on a local radio station as the candidate had not made a “substantial showing” of his candidacy entitling his to be treated as a “legally qualified candidate.” (Blog Article)
David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access). There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.