By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
With the traditional beginning of summer upon us, there is no vacation from the regulatory actions of importance to broadcasters. Let’s start with the routine actions for the upcoming month. With the radio license renewal cycle having ended with the filing of the last set of renewal applications in April, we enter the last year of the cycle for television. Renewals applications for Full-Power Television, Class A, LPTV and TV Translator Stations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are due on June 1. Renewal applications must be accompanied by FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 Broadcast EEO Program Report (except for LPFMs and TV translators). Stations filing for renewal of their license should make sure that all documents required to be uploaded to the station’s online public file are complete and were uploaded on time. Note that your Broadcast EEO Program Report must include two years of annual EEO public file reports for FCC review, unless your employment unit employs fewer than five full-time employees. Be sure to read the instructions for the license renewal application and consult with your advisors if you have questions, especially if you have noticed any discrepancies in your online public file or political file. Issues with the public file have already led to fines imposed on TV broadcasters during this cycle.
Also, on or before June 1, all radio and TV station employment units (a station employment unit is a station or stations that are under common control, share at least one full-time employee and are in the same geographic area) with five or more full-time employees licensed to communities in Arizona, District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming must upload to their online public inspection file an Annual EEO Public File report. This report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022. These licensees must also post on the homepage of their station website (if they have one) a link to the most recent report.
June 6 brings the date for comments on the field testing done by GeoBroadcast Solutions of its “zonecasting” system proposed to allow FM boosters to originate limited amounts of programming different than their primary stations for the insertion of targeted ads or news. We wrote about the request for comments on the study, and the issues in the proceeding, here. As we noted in this week’s summary of broadcast regulatory news, the FCC denied the request of NAB and NPR for an extension of the comment dates. Thus, the comments remain due on June 6, with reply comments due June 21.
Bidding is set to begin on June 7 in Auction 112, the sale of construction permits for 27 new full-power TV stations. These new stations are mostly located in rural western markets (although a channel in Syracuse, New York is among those being sold). The FCC previously announced that there were only 10 qualified applicants who had paid their upfront fees to participate in the auction.
At its June 8 regular monthly open meeting, the FCC will vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that asks for public comment on its proposal to authorize digital LPTV stations operating on TV channel 6 to continue to provide an analog audio stream that can be received on FM radios at 87.7 MHz. In the draft of the NPRM released earlier this month, the channel 6 stations authorized to provide the FM service would be limited, including a proposal that the authority would be restricted to those LPTV Channel 6 stations already providing such an audio service. The Notice also asks for comments as to whether Channel 6, in geographic areas where it is not currently used for TV services, should be repurposed for FM use (a proposal that has previously been advanced by the FCC, see our article here on previous FCC requests for comment on this issue). If the FCC adopts this Notice at its June meeting, comment dates will be announced by a future Federal Register publication.
Looking ahead to early July, on July 1, comments are due on the FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics annual call for comments on the State of Competition in the Communications Marketplace (see the Public Notice calling for these comments). These comments are used to prepare a report to Congress on communications competition issues and are sometimes referenced by the FCC itself in proceedings dealing with competition issues. The FCC seeks comments on a list of questions about competition in both the Video and Audio marketplaces, including the impact of digital competitors on traditional providers and the role that regulation plays in the competitive landscape. Reply comments are due August 1.
For all full-power broadcast and Class A TV stations, July 10 is the deadline for Quarterly Issues Programs lists to be uploaded to station online public inspection files. The lists should identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station aired in April, May and June that addressed those issues. As you finalize your lists, do so carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community. Note that, because the July 10 deadline falls on a weekend, there is FCC precedent that indicates that the deadline is extended to the next business day, which is Monday, July 11. However, stations are encouraged to upload in advance of the deadline to account for any upload delays or errors. See our post here for more on the importance of the Quarterly Issues Programs list obligation.
Also, as we noted in our regulatory dates reminder as May began, this is political season in many states. Remember to observe lowest unit charge windows and other political obligations if your state has any primary elections in these summer months. And, as always, review these dates with your legal and technical advisors, note other dates not listed here that may be relevant to your operations, and otherwise stay on top of all of your regulatory obligations.
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.