Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee, through its Communications and Technology Subcommittee, announced that its hearing on the AM For Every Vehicle Act will be held June 6, at 10:00 AM EST. A list of witnesses and an outline of the issues is set out in a pre-hearing memo released by the Committee staff. The hearing will address the important emergency information provided by AM radio and will be live streamed online at https://energycommerce.house.gov/. See this article on our Broadcast Law Blog for more information about the pending legislation to mandate AM radio be included in every car sold in the US.
- The long-running battle by Standard General to acquire TEGNA’s television stations appears to have ended, as the Administrative Law Judge presiding over the hearing ordered by the FCC’s Media Bureau has now issued an Order terminating the hearing. The Judge found the hearing to be moot because, as we noted last week, TEGNA announced that the deal had ended with the expiration of Standard General’s financing commitment, and TEGNA was dismissing the FCC application for approval of the sale (find previous updates on this proceeding, and the issues set for hearing, on our Blog here and here). The Media Bureau presumably will now dismiss all the associated applications, bringing the entire matter to a close. It remains to be seen whether the Office of Inspector General will take up calls from Republican leaders in Congress to investigate the FCC’s handling of this case. But, even if such an investigation happens, it will not provide a process for changing the outcome.
- On the political broadcasting front, Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3044, the REAL Political Advertisements Act, which would require political ads to include a disclosure if generative AI was used to generate any image or video footage in the ad. The bill currently has no co-sponsors. A companion Senate Bill, S. 1596, was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and is co-sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).
- In two orders, the Media Bureau has proposed to fine the licensee of an AM/FM combination in Clinton, Iowa, a total of $19,000 for violations of the FCC’s rules. The order on the AM station proposed a fine of $11,000 because the station allegedly (1) failed to upload (timely or otherwise) all required materials to the station’s online public inspection file, and failed to include a link to the station’s public file on the station’s website (as required by the FCC rules); (2) incorrectly certified in its license renewal application that its public file contained the public file documentation required by the FCC’s rules; and (3) engaged in unauthorized operation of the station by operating at less than 90% of its authorized power for more than 30 consecutive days without asking for special temporary authority to do so, as required by FCC rules. The proposed FM fine was $8,000 for similar public file and renewal application certification violations.
- The Media Bureau imposed a $750 fine on an LPTV station for failing to timely file its application for a license to cover its digital operation, and thereby engaging in unauthorized operation for over two years. As we have noted on our Blog, including in recent weekly summaries, once a station is constructed pursuant to a construction permit, the permittee must file a “license to cover” informing the FCC of the details of the completed construction (see our articles here, here, here, and here). The Bureau had originally proposed to fine the station $6,500 but, upon reviewing the station’s financial information, determined that this amount would be an excessive percentage of the station’s gross revenue and thus reduced the fine to $750, notwithstanding the station’s “pattern of failing to fully reply to the [Bureau’s] inquiries.”
- Demonstrating that no landowner is immune from FCC prosecution if a pirate radio station operates from their property, the FCC this past week sent a letter to the New Mexico State Land Office and the operators of New Mexico’s Spaceport America (from which Virgin Galactic launched people into space in 2021) that they could be liable for a much as $2,316,034 if they do not, within 10 days, provide evidence to the FCC that no unauthorized radio operations were continuing from their site. It was alleged that unauthorized operations were conducted on two FM frequencies from the site.
- On our Broadcast Law Blog, we published our look ahead at the regulatory dates of importance to broadcasters in June and early July.