By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
The lazy days of summer continue to provide little respite from the regulatory actions of importance to broadcasters. The good news is that there are no license renewal or EEO deadlines during the month of July. Nonetheless, there will be a number of July deadlines that require attention.
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). The 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.
July 5 and July 18 are the comment and reply comment deadlines, respectively, for the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the FCC’s proposed regulatory fees for fiscal year 2022. The fees that the FCC is proposing for television (full power and otherwise) and radio stations are set forth in Appendix C and Appendix G of the document. The FCC is proposing an increase of approximately 13% for radio broadcasters. Among other things, the FCC proposes to continue to assess fees for full-power broadcast television stations based on the population covered by a full-service broadcast television station’s contour, and it seeks comment on its mechanism for calculating the regulatory fee based on the this population-based methodology. These fees will be set by the end of August or very early September, to be paid before the October 1 start of the government’s new fiscal year.
In addition, on or before July 10, all full-power radio, full-power television, and Class A television stations, both commercial and noncommercial, must upload their Quarterly Issues/Program Lists for the second quarter (April 1, 2022, through June 30, 2022) to their online public inspection files. As we’ve previously noted, 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. The lists should be prepared 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. See our post here for more on the importance of the Quarterly Issues/Programs List obligations.
July 10 is also the deadline by which Class A television stations must upload to their online public inspection files their documentation of continuing eligibility for Class A status for the second quarter of 2022. It is also the deadline by which noncommercial educational stations not affiliated with NPR or PBS must upload to their online public inspection files documentation of on-air fundraising that benefitted third parties and interrupted normal programming during the second quarter of 2022.
Note that the July 10 deadline falls on a weekend, and there is FCC precedent indicating that that the deadline thus is extended to the next business day, which is Monday, July 11. However, stations are encouraged to upload in advance of the deadline to avoid problems with upload delays or errors.
At its open meeting scheduled for July 14, the FCC will consider adopting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (a draft of which is available here) that seeks comment on whether to update the FCC’s rules to identify a new publication for determining a television station’s designated market area (“DMA”) for satellite and cable carriage purposes. The proposed rule changes would remove references to the now defunct annual Station Index and Household Estimates and instead direct broadcasters to Nielsen’s Local TV Report. At that same meeting, the FCC will also consider adopting an Order and Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (draft available here), which, if adopted, would update the FCC’s rules to reflect the recent termination of analog operations by LPTV and television translator stations.
As we have previously reported, the FCC recently announced that it will be decommissioning its legacy Commission Registration System (“CORES”) at 6 pm EST on July 15. The legacy system will be replaced by the current (new) version of CORES (CORES2), which contains the same Federal Registration Number (FRN) information as the legacy system (found here ). This change will impact how individuals, licensees and other entities doing business before the FCC obtain and manage their FRNs, and will also affect access to various FCC databases, including the Licensing and Management System (“LMS”) used for preparing and filing routine FCC applications (including children’s TV reports). To maintain access to the information in CORES, all licensees need to register in the new system. Tutorial videos on navigating CORES2 can found here .
Comment dates have been announced in the Federal Register for the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing 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. Comments are due July 18, and reply comments are due August 1. The 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 (see our Broadcast Law Blog article here on previous FCC requests for comment on this issue).
Television stations with locally-produced programming whose signals were carried as distant signals by at least one cable or satellite system in 2021 must file their copyright royalty claims with the Copyright Royalty Board (“CRB”) during the period from July 1 through August 1. The CRB requires that these filings be made online through the eCRB system (further information is available here). In addition, the CRB reminds claims filers to register for an eCRB account well ahead of August 1 if they do not already have one.
As we indicated in a prior regulatory dates reminder, the political broadcast season has arrived and thus broadcasters must be aware of the dates by which Lowest Unit Rate (“LUR”) periods begin for upcoming elections. On July 2, the LUR period begins for the elections to be held on August 16 (i.e., Alaska (Primary), South Dakota (Primary Runoff), and Wyoming (Primary)). On July 9, the LUR period begins for the elections to be held on August 23 (i.e., Florida (Primary), Oklahoma (Primary Runoff)). On July 13, the LUR period begins for the election to be held on August 27 (Guam (Primary)). And, on July 30, the LUR period begins for the elections to be held on September 13 (Delaware (Primary), New Hampshire (Primary), and Rhode Island (Primary)).
Looking ahead to early August, note that August 1 is the deadline for full power television, Class A television, LPTV, and TV translator license renewal applications for stations in California. As we have previously advised, 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 renewal cycle.
Lastly, August 1 is also the deadline by which radio and television station employment units with five or more full-time employees licensed to communities in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin must upload Annual EEO Public Reports to stations’ online public inspection files and websites.
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.