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This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters

David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week (6/4-10), with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC this week announced that in-person meetings at its new headquarters building will now be allowed – though only when scheduled in advance and subject to COVID protocols. (Public Notice of Reopening and Public Notice on COVID Protocols).  The FCC had been closed to outside visitors since March 12, 2020.  In the interim, it moved to a new building.  The FCC plans its first in-person meeting open to the public in July.
  • The FCC announced that requests for changes in the call letters of broadcast stations, previously requested in a stand-alone database, will be requested through the LMS database as of June 22, 2022. The old call letter reservation system will be decommissioned.  Procedures for using LMS to request call letter changes are set out in the FCC’s Public Notice released this week (Public Notice).
  • The FCC adopted the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for public comment on a proposal to authorize 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. Its proposal would limit that authorization in many ways, including suggesting 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 Broadcast Law Blog article hereon previous FCC requests for comment on this issue).  Comment dates will be announced by a Federal Register publication (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking).
  • The FCC issued a reminder that all invoices for amounts that can be reimbursed from the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund for costs incurred because of the incentive auction must be filed by September 6. These remaining requests are due from LPTV stations, MVPDs and FM stations affected by the repacking of the television band following the incentive auction (FCC Reminder).
  • The FCC’s new rules authorizing computer modeling for FM directional antennas was published in the Federal Register. Those rules go into effect on July 11, 2020.
  • EAS rules adopted last year, providing for the regular filing of updated state EAS plans and their approval by the FCC, became effective earlier this week after approval of their paperwork collection requirements. State EAS committees should review and update their plans as required by these new rules (Public Notice).
  • In a decision released this week in a dispute between two radio companies over the appropriate compensation due to a broadcaster who was forced to change channels on its FM station to accommodate the upgrade in the facilities of another broadcaster’s FM station, the FCC clarified what expenses were appropriately the subject of a reimbursement request. The FCC allows one FM broadcaster who wants to upgrade its facilities to obtain an FCC order changing the channel of another broadcaster (at its same site and power) as long as the upgrading broadcaster pays the reasonable costs of the broadcaster being forced to change channels.  This decision helps to clarify what expenses are considered reasonable.  (Decision)
  • The FCC proposed to fine a public broadcasting company for incomplete public inspection files at four of its television stations. These deficiencies were discovered by the FCC during the license renewal process.  They had not been reported by the broadcaster even though the renewal application asks for a certification as to whether the broadcaster was timely in uploading materials to its public file.  Two of the broadcaster’s stations are proposed to receive fines of $6000 for the violations, and two would receive $9000 fines.  The deficiencies that were identified by the FCC included instances where a station had three Quarterly Issues Programs lists that were uploaded over a year late and four lists uploaded between one month and one year late ($9000 fine$6000 fine).  These decisions demonstrate that the Video Division is fining stations for violations of its public file rules, where the Audio Division, for the most part dealt with such violations discovered during the license renewal process through consent decrees.
  • The Federal Trade Commission initiated a proceeding to update its guidelines on preventing digital deception. The proceeding looks at issues including online sponsorship identification and other disclosures in advertising, with the FTC fearing that disclosures often were not evident to consumers when available only though multiple hyperlinks or otherwise did not provide clear information to consumers.  Comments are due by August 2, 2022. (Press ReleaseRequest for Comments)

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. 

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