While TV broadcasters can enjoy an incentive auction respite in July as attention shifts to the “forward auction” where we will see whether wireless carriers come up with enough money to fund the $86,422,558,704 (plus $1.75 billion for repacking costs, plus auction-related administrative costs) needed for the buyout of TV stations who agreed to surrender their spectrum, radio broadcasters will get some of their own attention as, at the end of the month, the second window for the filing of 250-mile waiver applications opens for Class A and B AM stations. We wrote about these waivers here, which allow an AM licensee to acquire an FM translator and file an application to move it up to 250 miles and operate it on any commercial frequency that does not create interference in their market. That window for Class A and B AM stations opens July 29 and runs through October 31 (and remains open for any other AM that has not already filed one of these waivers in the first window which opened back in January).
In addition to the AM window, there are routine filing deadlines for all TV stations – required to file their FCC Form 398 Children’s Television Reports by the 11th of the month (because the 10th of July is a Sunday) demonstrating the educational and informational programming they broadcast directed to children. By the 10th television stations also need to upload information into their online public files to demonstrate compliance with the limits on commercial time in children’s programs.
All broadcast stations, radio and TV, commercial and noncommercial, need to place into their public files by the 10th of the month, their Quarterly Issues Programs lists. These lists need to identify the principal issues that are facing the station’s community of license and service area, and document the programming that was broadcast by the station to address those issues. The failure to prepare and timely place these documents into the public file was the biggest source of fines in the last license renewal cycle – so make sure that these are completed on time. With last week’s required conversion of most radio stations in the Top 50 markets to an online public file (see our posts here, here and here), the FCC can monitor any station’s compliance with these rules, adding to the importance of meeting the upcoming obligation. For those Top 50 market radio stations that did not sell any political advertising time in the last week, these Quarterly Issues Programs lists are probably their first new document to be added to their online public file.
There are a number of comments in proceedings before the FCC that are due this month, including comments on the FCC’s proposals for revisions to its regulatory fees (see our post here) due July 5, with replies due on July 20. Comments on the FCC’s proposal to eliminate the requirement that broadcasters keep in their public file letters from the public about station operations are due on July 22 with reply comments on August 22. See our article here about the proposals in that proceeding.
Reply Comments on the FCC proposals for changes in the EAS alert system (dealing with matters such as the rules regarding state EAS plans – see the FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking here) are due on July 8. The FCC also just announced that it is taking comments on a draft EAS Operating Handbook by July 20.
Last in our list of highlights is another date for television broadcasters – by July 29, they are to file with the Copyright Royalty Board their claims for a share of the royalties paid for the rebroadcast of programming for which they own the copyright (usually local programming that they produced) which was rebroadcast by satellite TV systems or as a cable distant signal.
And don’t forget that political lowest unit rates are in effect in many states for primaries that will occur in July, August and early September – as such rates apply for the 45 day period before all primary elections. As usual, there are no doubt many other legal issues to consider this month, so do your best to say on top of these issues and avoid the pitfalls that come with ignoring your legal obligations.