With tomorrow’s FCC meeting to detail dates and procedures for the TV incentive auction dominating the headlines, there are other August regulatory dates that should not be overlooked. While we never can get to all of the relevant dates in our monthly highlight article, here are a few items worth your consideration. For one, we will soon be seeing details for submitting the regulatory fees that are due from all commercial broadcasters (and most other commercial entities regulated by the FCC) before the end of September. Last year, that notice came out right at the end of the month – immediately before the Labor Day weekend, somewhat later than in past years (see our article here). So be on the alert for that notice, to allow you to be ready to pay those mandatory fees before the applicable deadline.
Already, by the first of the month, commercial and noncommercial full-power and Class A television stations and all radio stations in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin that are part of an employment units with 5 or more full-time employees should have put into their public inspection files their annual EEO Public Inspection File Report, and posted those reports online so that they are accessible to visitors to their station websites. As part of the Mid-Term EEO reporting process we wrote about here, radio stations in the Carolina’s that are part of employment groups with 11 or more full-time employees should have also filed their Form 397 EEO Reports with the FCC by August 3. Noncommercial television stations in Illinois and Wisconsin should also have submitted their Biennial Ownership Reports by August 3, as should have noncommercial radio operators in both North and South Carolina and California. Details on all of these standard regulatory deadlines are available in our Broadcaster’s Regulatory Calendar, here.
A few comment dates in FCC proceedings are also worth noting. We wrote about the extension that the FCC granted to TV broadcasters for compliance with an obligation that would have otherwise become effective back in May to translate visual emergency information broadcast during a station’s entertainment programming (e.g. news crawls) into speech, and put that audio on the station’s SAP channel. The obligation was extended until the end of the year, but the FCC also started a proceeding looking for comments about other aspects of the obligation that have been extended indefinitely – including how to come up with audio to describe visual emergency information conveyed not by text but through images (e.g. weather radar maps), whether school closing information should be considered emergency information that needs to be translated into audio, and what to do when the audio descriptions (which the rules require to be repeated twice) take up more time than available on the SAP channel. Comments on these issues are due August 10.
We also wrote about an FCC request for preliminary comments on a proposal by a cable system operator to require TV stations, in their license renewal applications, to certify that the licensee will not block any multichannel video programming distributor (i.e. cable or satellite TV) from carrying the signal of the station at the end of a retransmission consent agreement unless the station is accessible over-the-air or by Internet streams to at least 90% of the homes in the market served by the MVPD. Comments on this Petition are due by August 14. This is an initial Petition for Rulemaking (which can be viewed here), so these comments will help inform the FCC as to whether to further pursue the proposals made in the Petition through a formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which would be needed before a rule change.
And, yes, the incentive auction will no doubt trigger many deadlines. A couple already in place that we have noted earlier – comments on what rules the FCC should apply to channel sharing agreements by TV operators entered into after the TV incentive auction. The comments are due August 13, with replies due August 28. Also, the FCC will hold a channel sharing webinar on August 13. For more information about these channel sharing dates – see our article, here. Also this month, on August 25, my partner Jonathan Cohen and I will be conducting a webinar on incentive auction issues, hosted by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, and made available by at least 10 other state broadcast associations to their members. More details on this webinar are available here, or through your state association if it is participating.
While summer may be winding down, FCC regulatory activity does not appear to be doing so. So, while enjoying what should be the last relaxed days of the season, don’t ignore the important regulatory dates that may be coming your way.