It’s February, and we’re back to the normal cycle of FCC filings. Due to be placed in the public files of radio and TV stations with 5 or more full-time employees are EEO Public Inspection File Reports for radio and TV stations in the following states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma. Radio stations with more than 10 full-time employees licensed in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi also have an obligation to file an EEO Mid-Term Report providing the FCC with their last two EEO Public File Reports, plus providing the FCC with a contact person to provide information about their EEO programs. For more about the Form 397 Mid-Term Report, see our article here.
Noncommercial Television Stations in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma and Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York have an obligation to file their Biennial Ownership Reports on February 1. While the FCC just last week adopted new rules to move noncommercial stations to a Biennial Ownership Report filing deadline consistent with commercial stations (by December 1 of odd numbered years), that rule is not yet effective so noncommercial stations in the states listed above need to continue to file their reports as scheduled on the anniversary date of the filing of their license renewal applications.
Unlike many other months, there are not many comment filing deadlines for broadcasters in the month. But there are a number of other issues to consider. For instance, there are a number of Lowest Unit Charge windows for Presidential primaries that open during the month given the primaries that will occur in March and April. These windows, of course, run 45 days before any primary or caucus. For a list of some of the dates for the LUC periods, and the other regulatory dates that are coming up, please review our Calendar of Important Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters, available here.
Other legal issues that broadcasters should keep in mind during the month include the cautions about last-minute Super Bowl promotions, about which we wrote here. Also, we are still waiting on the full text of the Copyright Royalty Board decision on webcasting royalties (see a summary of the decision here, and a discussion of some of the open issues left by that decision, here), even though those rates are already effective. AM stations also can continue to file for FM translators to rebroadcast their stations. While the window opened last week for Class C and D AM stations to file to move those translators to locations which can serve their communities, these stations can still file applications through July, and can even during the filing window for Class A and B AM stations which opens in July if they had not previously been able to locate a translator to acquire. See our article here for more information about this filing window. Many AM stations will also be preparing comments on what’s next for AM revitalization efforts, as the comment deadline on those comments is in March.
On the TV side, many stations will be considering their options for the incentive auction, as they will need to make their final determination as to auction participation in late March. But we’ll probably hear little about that decision-making process, as the rules on prohibited communications - the “quiet period” - for broadcasters who filed applications to participate in the auction has already kicked in so what station owners can say publically, or even to other station owners, is very limited. See our article here for more on the quiet period.
So, while there may not seem to be too many deadlines in February, there still will be much going on in the regulatory world to which broadcasters need to pay attention. So keep your eyes open on the many developing issues that may arise in the coming weeks.