Here are some of the regulatory developments of the last week of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • About 200 radio and television stations have been randomly selected to be audited by the FCC for their EEO compliance. The FCC audits about five percent of all broadcast stations each year, requesting documentation of an audited station’s hiring practices. Stations on the audit list have until April 26 to upload their audit response to their public file. (Audit Notice and Station List) (Broadcast Law Blog)
    • A draft of a proposal for changing the broadcast EEO rules is circulating for review among the Commissioners. It appears that this proposal will seek public input on changes arrived at after the Commission’s review of the comments in its 2019 rulemaking that looked at how to make the EEO program more effective. See our article here on that 2019 rulemaking proceeding.
  • The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau reminded parties of their obligation to report in the Antenna Structure Registration system all transfers of ownership of registered towers. The Bureau notes that accurate records are necessary to protect aircraft navigation safety. (Public Notice). See our articles here and here about past FCC fines for companies who forgot to update this information.
  • Beginning March 26, broadcasters will no longer have the option of submitting checks or other “manual” payments for fees due for applications processed by the FCC’s Media Bureau. With the closure of Lockbox 979089, all application fee payments must be electronic. (Federal Register)
  • At the FCC’s March 17’s FCC monthly Open Meeting, the Commissioners will consider an Emergency Alert System proposal for new rules to keep the public safe and informed during emergencies and disasters, including an inquiry as to whether it is possible to deliver emergency alerts through the internet, including over streaming services. (Meeting Details) (Emergency Alert NPRM and NOI)
  • Comments are due by March 29 on the FCC’s proposal to use a terrain-based methodology (such as Longley-Rice) for determining where white space devices can operate in the television band. Reply comments are due by April 26. The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was released in October. (Federal Register)
  • Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA) sent letters to the heads of the country’s biggest cable, satellite, and streaming platforms requesting information on how they intend to police misinformation disseminated by certain news networks they carry. As the inquiry targeted conservative networks and alleged misinformation about the presidential election and the pandemic, Republican objections, including statements from FCC Commissioners Carr and Simington, were swift. It is likely that the Congressional letter, this week’s congressional hearing on misinformation in the media, and other efforts to address media bias will keep the First Amendment and the Fairness Doctrine in the news. We wrote about these debates in the context of the Fairness Doctrine, here, and NAB CEO Gordon Smith wrote an op-ed about broadcasters’ dedication to reporting facts, here.
  • The FCC announced the winning bidders of the C-Band auction that raised more than $81 billion selling off spectrum made available, in part, by relocating broadcasters. This moves the FCC another step closer to releasing reimbursement payments to affected broadcasters. (Public Notice) (Bidding Summary)
  • We published our monthly look at the upcoming regulatory dates and deadlines coming in March and early April. We covered comment periods in rulemaking proceedings, application filing deadlines, and other regulatory dates for the coming month. Read our blog post, here.