April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Reports, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, LUC Windows, Rulemaking Comments, and More

For the first time since October, we can say that the federal government is funded for the rest of the fiscal year (through the end of September) so we do not expect to have to report on any threats of a government shutdown for many months. With that worry off our plate, we can look at the dates that broadcasters do need to pay attention to in the month of April.

First, we’ll look at the most significant routine filing deadlines coming up in April.  April 1 is the deadline for radio and television station employment units in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas with five or more full-time employees to upload their Annual EEO Public File Report to their stations’ online public inspection files.  A station employment unit is a station or cluster of commonly controlled stations serving the same general geographic area having at least one common employee.  For employment units with five or more full-time employees, the annual report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for the prior year.  A link to the uploaded report must also be included on the home page of each station’s website, if the station has a website.  Be timely getting these reports into your public file, as even a single late report can lead to FCC fines (see our article here about a recent $26,000 fine for a single late EEO report).

The filing of the Annual EEO Public File Reports for radio station employment units in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee with eleven or more full-time employees triggers a Mid-Term EEO Review, where the FCC will analyze the last two Annual Reports for compliance with FCC requirements.  There is no form to file to initiate this review but, when radio stations located in those states with five or more full-time employees are required to upload to their public file their annual EEO Public File Report, they must also indicate in the online public file whether their employment unit has eleven or more full-time employees, using a checkbox now included in the public file’s EEO folder.  This allows the FCC to determine which station groups need a Mid-Term Review.  See our articles here and here on Mid-Term EEO Review reporting requirements for radio stations.

April 10 is the deadline by which all full power and Class A television stations and commercial and noncommercial full power AM and FM radio stations must upload to their online public inspection files their Quarterly Issues/Program lists for the first quarter of 2024.  The lists should identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station aired between January 1 and March 31, 2024 that addressed those issues.  It is important that these be timely uploaded to your public file, as the untimely uploads of these documents probably have resulted in more fines in the last decade than for any other violation of the FCC’s rules.  As you finalize your lists, do so carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community.  See our article here for more on the importance of the Quarterly Issues/Programs list obligation.

Other deadlines in April include the deadline for comments responding to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and Xperi, Inc.’s petition seeking clarification regarding the maximum allowable operating power of a digital FM signal, a power level proposed to be increased in the FCC’s August 2023 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  The comments on the petition for clarification are due on April 1.  NAB and Xperi seek to clarify an ambiguity in the expression of the maximum digital FM power levels permitted for multichannel hybrid service modes.  The FCC seeks comments on this proposed clarification (see our discussion here).  Reply comments are due April 15. 

Comments are due April 8 in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which proposes to implement multilingual capabilities for the Emergency Alert Service (EAS).  The FCC proposes that public safety and other groups that originate alerts would be provided pre-scripted, pre-translated alert messages in thirteen non-English languages that the originators can distribute during emergencies to TV and radio broadcasters, cable service providers, and other EAS participants.  The FCC is seeking comment on many questions, including whether a station receiving these pre-scripted alerts in multiple languages would have to broadcast the alert only in the language of its programming, or whether it would have additional obligations to broadcast alerts in other languages common in its service area.  Reply comments are due May 6. 

Reply comments are also due April 8 in response to two other Notices of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the FCC in January:

  • A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which proposes to require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to issue rebates to subscribers affected by TV station blackouts resulting from failed retransmission consent negotiations.  The FCC is seeking comment on whether and how to require cable operators and DBS providers to issue these rebates.  The FCC also requests comment on whether there are other methods to incentivize cable operators, DBS providers, and broadcasters to limit the occurrences of blackouts.
  • A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which proposes to prioritize the review of non-routine license renewal, assignment of license, and transfer of control applications filed by broadcast stations that provide at least three hours per week of locally originated programming.  The FCC also seeks comment on whether its 2017 abolition of the main studio rule was a mistake, questioning whether what it now considers the basis for eliminating that rule – fostering the creation of more and better local content – had been achieved.  We wrote in detail about this proceeding in our article here, including looking at the actual reasons given for the abolition of the main studio rule in the FCC’s 2017 decision.

Other deadlines in the month are more specialized, and thus applicable to fewer stations.  April 10 is the deadline by which noncommercial educational stations must upload to their public inspection files documentation of their on-air fundraising benefitting third parties conducted between January 1 and March 31, 2024.  This obligation applies to noncommercial educational stations not affiliated with NPR or PBS that conducted third-party on-air fundraising that interrupted their normal programming.  For more information about this requirement, see our article here.

April 10 is also the date by which Class A television stations should upload documentation of their continuing eligibility for Class A status based on their operations from January 1 through March 31, 2024.

April 10 is also the deadline by which all full power television, Class A television, and full power radio stations must upload to their public inspection files documentation of any programming aired between January 1 and March 31, 2024 that was leased by a foreign government or their agents, or provided by a foreign entity for free in exchange for its airing.  The FCC’s foreign sponsorship identification rules require that stations disclose when programming has been paid for or provided by a foreign governmental entity and take steps whenever they sell any blocks of program time to determine if any buyer of program time is a representative of a foreign government.  See our article here for more information on this requirement, and our article here on changes to this requirement now being reviewed by the Commission.

The political season continues in April, and broadcasters serving Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands should be aware of the opening of the following political windows for primaries, caucuses, and elections scheduled to occur in April, May, and June – meaning that Lowest Unit Rates apply to sales to candidates and their authorized committees (see our article here on the basics of computing LUR): 

LUR Date Election Date State/Territory Election Type
April 3, 2024* April 16, 2024 Florida Municipal Election Runoff (Town of Inglis)
April 23, 2024 Municipal Election Runoff (Cities of Cedar Key and Chiefland)
April 30, 2024 Municipal Election Runoff (City of Williston)
April 5, 2024 June 4, 2024 Delaware Municipal Election (Bellefonte)
Mississippi Local Election (Mississippi Levee District Commissioner – Washington, Bolivar, and Issaquena)
April 6, 2024 May 21, 2024 Georgia Federal (House), State, County, and Municipal Primary
Idaho Federal (House) and State Primary
Kentucky Presidential, Federal (House), and State Primary
Oregon Presidential, Federal (House), and State Primary
April 8, 2024 May 23, 2024 Idaho Presidential Primary (D)
April 9, 2024 June 8, 2024 Delaware Municipal Election (Millsboro)
April 12, 2024 June 11, 2024 North Dakota Non-Home-Rule City Elections
April 20, 2024 June 4, 2024 District of Columbia Presidential Primary (D)/ Municipal Primary
Iowa Federal (House), State, and County Primary
Montana Presidential, Federal (House/ Senate), and State Primary
New Jersey Presidential and Federal (House/ Senate) Primary
New Mexico Presidential, Federal (House/ Senate), and State Primary
South Dakota Presidential, Federal (House), and State Primary
April 24, 2024 June 8, 2024 Guam Presidential Primary (D)
Virgin Islands Presidential Primary (D)
April 26, 2024 June 25, 2024 Mississippi Local Election Runoff (Mississippi Levee District Commissioner – Washington, Bolivar, and Issaquena)
April 27, 2024 June 11, 2024 Maine Federal (House/ Senate), State, and County Primary
Nevada Federal (House/ Senate) and State Primary
North Dakota Federal (House/ Senate) and State Primary
South Carolina Federal (House) and State Primary

As a refresher, in the 45 days before a primary election, and 60 days before a general or special election, broadcasters must extend to legally qualified candidates their lowest unit rate and continue to follow all other applicable political broadcasting rules.  So, the lowest unit rate period will be in effect at some point next month for stations serving states that have primaries, caucuses, or elections in April, May, and June.  For a deeper dive on how to prepare for the 2024 elections, see our post, here, which also includes a link to our comprehensive Political Broadcasting Guide.  Also take a look at our 2024 Broadcasters’ Calendar to see if your state has an upcoming primary, general, or special election (though confirm these dates locally as some dates have changed since the calendar was prepared). 

Finally, looking ahead to May, stations should be checking the FCC Enforcement Bureau’s recent announcement of random EEO audits.  Stations that are on that list should be preparing their responses, which are due by May 6.

As always, check with your attorneys and advisors to see if there are other dates not mentioned here that are of importance to your station.  Always stay on top of all regulatory requirements.