June brings some standard obligations for broadcasters in a number of states with anniversaries of their license renewal filing, plus the return of an obligation that we have not seen in 4 years- the obligations of radio stations in certain states to file an FCC Form 397 Mid-Term EEO Report. In addition to these routine regulatory deadlines, comment dates on certain FCC proceedings, a new CALM Act deadline, and some decisions for which broadcasters should be watching are among the regulatory actions that we can expect this coming month.
First, let’s look at the standard recurring obligations. By June 1, Annual EEO Public Inspection File Reports need to be placed in the public inspection files (including the online files of TV stations) of stations that are part of a station employment unit with five or more full-time (30 hours per week) employees that are licensed to communities in these states: Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. As we wrote in more detail yesterday, June 1 also brings the obligation of radio stations that are part of employment units with 11 or more full-time employees, and are located in Maryland, DC, Virginia or West Virginia to file their Form 397, EEO Mid-Term Report. Every other month for the next four years we will see a similar obligation arise for a group of radio or TV stations in states that have celebrated the 4th anniversary of the filing of their license renewal applications.Noncommercial Television Stations in Michigan and Ohio and Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations in Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia have a June 1 obligation to file their Biennial Ownership Reports. As we wrote here, the FCC is considering consolidating the noncommercial biennial ownership filing obligation with that of commercial stations, on a uniform date every two years (coming for commercial stations in November of this year), but that proposal has not yet been adopted, so noncommercial stations keep filing on every even anniversary of the due date for the filing of their license renewals.
The last license renewal post-filing announcements for TV stations in Delaware and Pennsylvania will be broadcast on the 1st and 16th of this month. We won’t hear any more routine pre or post filing renewal announcements for another 4 years, when the radio stations in the states that have Form 397 obligations this month start the next renewal cycle in 2019.
TV Stations also have CALM Act obligations that go into effect on June 4. As we wrote here, that is the date by which TV stations need to be meeting the new ATSC A/85 standards that were adopted last year. So make sure that you have updated your practices to comply with the updated standard to remain in compliance with the regulations limiting loud commercials.
The FCC’s proposals for this year’s regulatory fees, and the proposals for change that could adjust the way broadcasters’ fees are calculated, were released last week by the FCC (see our summary here). Comments on those proposals are due by June 22.
We also wrote about the FCC’s notice of the receipt of a request for rulemaking that would allow greater power for LPFM stations, and make other changes in the LPFM rules. Comments on that proposal are due by June 15.
We would also expect more FCC action on the television incentive auction this month. There has been a proposal circulating among the Commissioners that, among other things, makes changes to the incentive auction rules to liberalize post-auction sharing agreements between TV stations – allowing one station to sell their 6 MHz to the FCC but remain in operation by sharing the digital capacity of another station in their market. While the release of that order has long been expected, it has not come out yet – so look for that soon.
The FCC also recently released a set of simulations for implementing the targets for clearing certain blocks of spectrum in the upcoming auction (see the Public Notice here). Comments on that proposal are due on June 3. Also, many expect action on the appeal filed by the NAB and Sinclair seeking review of the incentive auction rules adopted by the FCC – most particularly the FCC’s calculations of the service areas of stations left after the Incentive auction and the subsequent repacking of the TV spectrum (see our article here). Keep your eyes open for that decision as well.
As in any month, there will no doubt be other surprises to come, so be alert to see what the FCC has coming your way in the coming weeks.