April, as we wrote last month, begins the start of the radio license renewal process, with stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia having to run on the 1st and 16th of the month public notices of the planned filing of their license renewals at the beginning of June. As we also noted last month, April also brings a requirement that, by the 10th of the month, stations add to their online public file Quarterly Issues Programs Lists for the prior quarter, setting out the most important issues facing their communities in the prior quarter, and the programming that they aired to address those issues. We have written about the importance of these quarterly reports to the FCC to show how you served the public interest and the fines that can be imposed at renewal time if the lists are not properly prepared and uploaded to the online public file. So don’t forget the obligation this obligation that applies to all full-power stations (and Class A TV stations). We expect that the FCC will be watching (and in fact already is, as evident from some of their recent warnings to stations)!
In addition, April 1 brings the obligation for radio and television stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees, to add to their online public inspection file their Annual EEO Public Inspection File Report. This report documents the full-time employment openings at the station in the prior year, the recruitment sources used to fill those positions, and the non-vacancy specific outreach efforts (the menu options) that stations use to inform their community about broadcast job openings and the efforts they make to train their staffs to assume more involved roles at their stations. TV stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware will also file with the FCC their Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – likely the last mid-term reports to be filed as the FCC’s order abolishing these reports should become effective before the next such reports are due to be submitted (see our articles here and here on the FCC’s abolition of the Mid-Term Report and its continued enforcement of the EEO rules through EEO audits).
Quarterly Children’s Television Reports are also due by the 10th of the month, reporting on the educational and informational programming directed to children broadcast on each stream that a TV station broadcasts (the obligations of TV stations to broadcast educational children’s TV programming is under review – see our post here – but that does not affect this upcoming filing obligation). The 10th is also the date for TV stations affected by the repacking to give the FCC a status report on their repacking efforts, though the FCC just agreed to waive that requirement for TV stations in repacking Stage 3 as they have an April 12 deadline for their “10 Week Report” – due 10 weeks before the date on which their transition should be complete – and these reports are seen as essentially duplicative.
On April 29, comments are due in the FCC’s Quadrennial Review of its ownership rules. This review will principally look at radio ownership rules (see our article here). But the FCC will also be looking at trying to provide more definition as to when they will allow the common ownership of two of the top 4 TV stations in any market, and also at whether one party could own 2 of the top 4 broadcast TV networks.
Thus, as always, April will be a busy regulatory month. Consult with your own counsel about dates we may not have highlighted here, and for dates that may apply specifically to your station. For more information about upcoming regulatory dates, see our Broadcaster’s Regulatory Calendar, here.