April has many important dates for broadcasters – both radio and TV. This includes both regular regulatory obligations and dates unique to this April for both radio and TV – including the release of the FCC’s Closing Notice for the TV incentive auction and the effective date for the new rules liberalizing the location of FM translators used to rebroadcast AM stations.
The regular dates include the requirement for commercial and noncommercial full-power and Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas that they, by April 1, add to their public file (and upload to their websites for stations that have not yet converted to the FCC’s online public file) their Annual EEO Public File Report if the station is part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees. For Radio Stations in Texas which are part of an employment unit with 11 or more full-time employees; and for Television Employment Units with five or more full-time employees in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, by April 3 (as April 1 is on the weekend), these stations must file with the FCC their EEO Mid-Term Reports (see our summary of this requirement here). The Mid-Term Report includes the last two EEO public file reports for these stations and other information about the station’s EEO program.
This is also the end of a calendar quarter, so all stations, commercial and noncommercial, must place into their public files by April 10 their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists. These lists set out the issues facing their communities and the programs that the station broadcast in the last quarter to address these issues. As these lists are the only FCC-required records of how stations serve their local communities through their programming efforts, the FCC has taken these obligations very seriously, and imposed big fines for stations that don’t meet their obligations in a timely fashion.
Television stations also have the obligation by April 10 to file with the FCC their Children’s Television Reports, reporting on the educational and informational programming addressed to children that they broadcast in the prior quarter. Also, by April 10, they must place in their public files information showing that they complied with the restrictions on the number of commercials that television stations can run during children’s programming.
Sometime in mid-April, we will see the Incentive Auction Closing Notice, announcing the television stations that will be surrendering their licenses as a result of the incentive auction, as well as the new channels for any TV stations that are repacked so that the FCC can shrink the spectrum used by TV stations to repurpose the remainder of the spectrum for wireless users. This Notice will also announce the dates by which repacked stations must accomplish their channel changes, as well as other important dates in this transition. While the NAB has asked for reconsideration of the repacking process announced by the FCC, one way or another, there will be many deadlines tied to this notice. So TV stations need to be prepared to start their post-auction efforts in earnest once the notice is released.
For radio, AM stations are waiting the effective date of the new rules relaxing the restrictions on where FM translators can be located to rebroadcast AM stations. In the past, such translators had to be located so as to keep their 1 mv/m contour within the lesser of the 2 mv/m contour of the AM station or a 25 mile radius from the station. As of April 10, that rule will be changed so that the translators can be located so that their 1 mv/m contour is within the greater of the 2 mv/m contour of the AM or within the 25 mile radius, whichever is greater. For more on this change, see our articles here, here and here.