By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
As fall approaches and kids head back to school, be sure not to lose track of the regulatory dates and deadlines in September. We outline some of those dates below. One date is applicable to all commercial broadcasters, the obligation to pay regulatory fees. While the exact due date has not yet been announced, look for that announcement any day as the Commission adopted the decision setting those fees last week. See the Report and Order, here, for more details and to see what your station owes. As part of that proceeding, the FCC also decided to seek comment on assessing fees in the future on users of unlicensed spectrum, especially large tech companies. Many such users manufacture devices or provide other applications that use spectrum or otherwise benefit from FCC regulation, but right now do not pay fees. Watch for comment dates on this proposal in the near future. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking begins on page 38, here.
Comment dates have been set for parties that want to weigh in on the FCC’s media ownership rules. They have until September 2 to file their comments in the 2018 Quadrennial Review proceeding, which focuses most heavily on local radio ownership regulation. These comments are to refresh the record with updated information about the state of the media marketplace since initial comments in the proceeding were filed over two years ago. Reply comments are due by October 1. We wrote more about this review of media ownership, here.
The FCC’s Media Bureau is seeking comment on a petition filed by the four major TV networks affiliates’ associations regarding recently adopted rules that require broadcasters to make specific sponsorship identification disclosures about programming blocks purchased by a foreign government or its representatives, and to take steps to assess if any party purchasing such time is in fact a representative of a foreign government. The affiliates are concerned that the new rules might be read to apply to common forms of broadcast advertising and asked the FCC to clarify that these rules do not apply when a station sells time to advertisers in the normal course of business, no matter the duration of the advertisement. In the Public Notice setting the comment dates, the Media Bureau encouraged commenters that agree with the affiliates’ position to provide objective criteria to distinguish between program blocks that should or should not be covered by the rules. Comments on the petition are due by September 2, with reply comments due by September 17. Note that the NAB and two other broadcast organizations have also filed a Petition for Review in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the new sponsorship identification rules.
Radio operators should note September 7 as the date comments are due on several technical changes the FCC has proposed making to its rules for radio. Read the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, here. Reply comments are due by September 20.
Winning bidders in Auction 109 that recently concluded should be working on their FCC Form 2100, Schedule 301-FM long-form applications and be prepared to submit those applications by September 13. Instructions for completing the application are available, here. Final payments are also due by September 13. See the Public Notice with more details, here.
The approximately 200 stations that received an EEO random audit letter from the FCC must upload their responses to their online public file by September 20. We wrote more about this audit round, here. A copy of the audit letter and the list of stations chosen to be audited are available, here.
More details about the results of the August 11 National EAS Test are due by September 27 via FCC ETRS Form Three. Stations should be prepared to share the operational details of their test experience, including whether the station suffered any equipment or software failures that caused the station to not retransmit the test to its audience. See the Form Three filing guide, here.
Looking ahead to October, radio stations in Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Marianas Islands, Oregon and Washington and TV stations in Iowa and Missouri should be preparing their license renewal applications for submission on or before October 1. Pay close attention to the contents of your online public file and be sure that all required documents are complete and were uploaded on time. These stations are also required to file a Broadcast EEO Program Report (FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396) and, if they have five or more full-time employees in their station employment unit, upload an annual EEO report to their public file and website.
Radio stations with five or more full-time employees in their station employment in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Iowa and Missouri and TV stations with five or more full-time employees in their station employment unit in Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Marianas Islands, Oregon and Washington must also post their annual EEO reports to their public file and website.
Another obligation at which all broadcasters should be looking arises between October 1 and December 1, when licensees of commercial and non-commercial full power television, Class A television, low power television, AM radio, and FM radio stations must submit their biennial ownership reports (FCC Form 323 and 323-E). These reports ensure the public can learn who owns, operates and controls broadcast stations. Timely filing of your ownership report takes on added significance during a license renewal cycle, as the reports are one of the items that FCC staff will be looking at during their compliance review. See the June Public Notice, here.
Quarterly Issues Programs lists are also due in early October – by October 10. All full-power broadcast stations, including Class A TV stations, must file these reports.
Finally, TV stations in Phases 0 to 5 of the incentive auction repack have until October 8 to submit all remaining invoices and supporting documentation using the FCC Form 399 reimbursement form, and to initiate interim close-out procedures with respect to any compensation that they are due from the repacking of the TV spectrum. Any station that has failed to file any invoices or initiate interim close-out procedures by the invoice filing deadline assigned to its phase will be closed out of the reimbursement program on its filing deadline date, and its available reimbursement funds will be returned to the fund for use by other entities. See the Public Notice, here.
These are just some of the dates and deadlines in September and early October that you should mark on your calendar. As always, be sure to keep in touch with your station’s legal counsel, engineer and other consultants who advise your operations to identify specific regulatory dates that apply to your operations.
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.