July brings a number of new regulatory dates for broadcasters – including the effective dates of two new compliance obligations for small market TV stations, as well as numerous routine regulatory filing dates. July 10 brings one deadline for all broadcast stations – it is the date by which your Quarterly Issues Programs lists, setting out the most important issues that faced your community in the last quarter and the programs that you broadcast to address those issues, need to be placed in the physical public inspection file of radio stations, and the online public file of TV broadcasters.
Full power TV and Class A TV stations by January 10 also need to have filed with the FCC their FCC Form 398 Children’s Television Reports, addressing the educational and informational programming directed to children that they broadcast. Also, by that same date, they need to upload to their online public files records showing compliance with the limits on commercials during programming directed to children. And there are other new obligations for smaller TV stations that are effective this month.
For smaller TV stations, July brings the requirement that they comply with obligations that have already been in place for larger stations. The Top 4 network stations in the Top 50 markets have already had to keep maintain the political section of their public file online. As of July 1, that obligation is extended to all other TV stations. We wrote about a seminar on this topic that we recently conducted for a number of state broadcast associations, here, and wrote about an FCC reminder about this deadline, here.
Also, Top 4 network stations in the Top 25 markets have been forbidden from using the Electronic Newsroom Technique (“ENT”) to caption their news and other live programming. While other stations can still rely on that technique, the FCC recently added new requirements for stations using ENT – rules which became effective on June 30. Those rules require stations that use the ENT take additional actions to expand the portion of their live programming that will be accessible to the hearing impaired. Specifically stations using ENT must follow the following new requirements, or face an escalating series of penalties upon the FCC’s receipt of complaints about their captioning:
- In-studio produced programming will be scripted. These scripted elements will include in- studio news, sports, weather, and entertainment programming.
- For weather interstitials where there may be multiple segments within a news program, weather information explaining the visual information on the screen and conveying forecast information will be scripted, although the scripts may not precisely track the words used on air.
- Pre-produced programming will be scripted (to the extent technically feasible).
- If live interviews, live on-the scene and/or breaking news segments are not scripted, stations shall supplement them with crawls, textual information, or other means (to the extent technically feasible).
- These provisions do not relieve stations of their obligations to comply with requirements regarding the accessibility of programming providing emergency information under 47 C.F.R. § 79.2.
- Stations will provide training to all news staff on scripting for improving ENT.
- Stations will appoint an “ENT Coordinator” accountable for compliance.
These rules are now effective, so smaller TV stations should be sure that they are observed.
As we are still continuing in the TV renewal cycle, there are stations in a number of states that should be running either post-filing renewal announcements or pre-filing announcements for stations with August filing deadlines. The lowest unit rate window also opens this month for primaries in a number of states. For more specifics on these deadlines and which states are involved, check out our Broadcasters Regulatory Calendar here.
Numerous other proceedings will be continuing this month, with comments due on the FCC’s proposals for this year’s regulatory fees. In early August, comments on the new multiple ownership proceeding will be due, a deadline recently extended out of the month of July. At its meeting in July, the FCC will be considering the expansion of the requirement for online captioning of repurposed TV programs to video clips. Replies on the recordkeeping comments due today at the Copyright Royalty Board will also be due in early August.
There will no doubt be other regulatory actions that occur in July. The FCC has promised more information about the television incentive auctions. There will be more litigation on the recent FCC actions to bar new TV Joint Sales Agreements. On the copyright side of things, look for a request for Reply Comments in the Copyright Office’s proceeding on music royalty issues.
While the lazy days of summer may be upon us, there are still many regulatory deadlines to be met. So don’t head to the beach you’ve taken care of all of these obligations!