September is one of those few months of the year where there are no regular FCC filing deadlines – no quarterly issues programs lists, no children’s television reports, no annual EEO public file reports, and no ownership reports or renewal deadlines. For TV stations that recently filed a renewal, or which are about to file one, there are the pre-or post-filing notices. But for most broadcasters, the one routine regulatory deadline in September (which has, in the past, sometimes fallen in August), is the obligation to pay annual regulatory fees. But, so far, the FCC has not released the Order officially stating what those fees will be, or the Notice setting the filing deadlines – though we expect these notices any day (perhaps any moment). As the fees need to be paid before the start of the FCC’s new fiscal year on October 1, expect that those fees will be due at some point before the end of September.
While there are few of these routine filing deadlines in September (though broadcasters should, of course, be preparing for the due date for many of these reports in early October), there are a number of important proceedings with September comment dates, appeal deadlines or other important milestones. And there is the start of the Lowest Unit Rate window for the November election. Some of the September deadlines are summarized below.
The reply comments on the FCC’s ownership proceeding are due on September 8. The comments that were filed contained many proposals for liberalizing the rules from various broadcasters, and objections to any changes from many public interest groups – about what you would expect from such proposals. But, with the reply comment date coming up, we will no doubt see more debate about the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership rules, the local radio and TV ownership rules, JSAs/SSAs and other sharing arrangements and other aspects of the FCC’s ownership proceeding. We last wrote about this proceeding here.
The recent proposal to expand the obligations for the online public file to radio and cable and satellite TV also has reply comments due this month, on September 8. While the comments are on a public notice asking for preliminary thoughts on this expansion – not on a formal notice of proposed rulemaking asking to establish such rules – the mere request for comments seems to show that the FCC is interested in going down this path. While these rules are not imminent, it would not be surprising to see them adopted in the next few years. See our summary of the proposal here.
Comments on another proposal in its early stages are also due this month – the proposal to create a Class C4 FM station – a class of operations at about 12 kw, mid-way between 6 kw Class A stations and 25 kw Class C3s. We wrote about that proposal here. Comments are due on September 18 on this initial public notice, again simply looking to inform the FCC about whether or not to move forward to a formal proceeding on this issue.
In the music licensing area, reply comments are due on the Copyright Royalty Board’s proposal for an expansion of the recordkeeping obligations for webcasters, as are comments on the Copyright Office’s proceeding on overall reform of the music licensing process. The former are due on September 5, the latter on September 12. Our summary of the CRB’s recordkeeping proposal is here, and our summary of the issues raised in the Copyright Office’s request for reply comments is here.
And, of course, broadcasters should not forget that the lowest unit rate period for political advertising for the November election starts on September 5. Our Guide to the Political Broadcasting Rules can be found here. An article on the basics of the Lowest Unit Charge obligations can be found here.
These are but some of the regulatory issues that will be coming up for broadcasters in September. As always, there are bound to be other issues that will pop up during the course of the month. So stay alert! Our calendar of the regulatory dates for broadcasters for the full year can be found here.