After a long winter, spring has finally arrived and has brought with it more daylight and warmer temperatures—two occurrences that do not necessarily pair well with keeping up with broadcast regulatory dates and deadlines. Here are some of the important dates coming in April. Be sure to consult with your FCC counsel on all other important dates applicable to your own operations.
On or before April 1, radio stations in Texas (including LPFM stations) and television stations in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee must file their license renewal applications through the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS). Those stations must also file with the FCC a Broadcast EEO Program Report (Form 2100, Schedule 396).
Both radio and TV stations in the states listed above with April 1 renewal filing deadlines, as well as radio and TV stations in Delaware and Pennsylvania, if they are part of a station employment unit with 5 or more full-time employees (an employment unit is a station or a group of commonly controlled stations in the same market that share at least one employee), by April 1 must upload to their public file and post a link on their station website to their Annual EEO Public Inspection Report covering their hiring and employment outreach activities for the twelve months from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.
By April 10, all full-power radio and TV stations, commercial and noncommercial, must post to their online public inspection file their Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists reporting on the issues that faced their communities and the on-air programming that they presented addressing those issues in the first quarter of 2021 (January, February, and March). These documents are the only FCC-required record of how a broadcast station has served the public interest in its service area. We wrote about the importance of these lists, here.
The 200 or so stations that received an EEO audit notice at the end of February must post their response to that audit to their public file by April 26. Among other things, stations must upload their last two annual EEO public file reports and supporting documentation detailing the station employment unit’s compliance with the EEO rules. Station employment units with fewer than five full-time employees are still required to respond but, as they are exempt from most of the EEO outreach rules, they have lesser documentation requirements. We wrote about what is required under these audits and more generally about the broadcast EEO rules and compliance, here.
The FCC has identified a limited number of earth stations operating in the C-Band that have been reported as no longer operational or that have not responded to communications from the C-Band Relocation Coordinator. Owners of the earth stations on these lists that are in fact still operating must by April 19 file a notice with the FCC confirming their continuing operational status or their authorizations will be deleted from the FCC’s database and no longer protected. The Public Notice, with more information on this deadline is available here. The stations that have been identified as being no longer operational are listed here. The stations that have been identified as being unresponsive to outreach efforts are listed here. Operators of earth stations who have filed for lump sum reimbursement or who are otherwise in contact with the Relocation Coordinator should not be on these lists and, if they are in fact not on the lists, do not have any obligation on April 19.
New penalties for pirate radio go into effect on April 26. These penalties were permitted by the PIRATE Act, signed into law in early 2020, which gave the FCC the ability to assess higher penalties against pirate radio operators and allows those penalties to be levied more quickly as the FCC does not need to first issue notice to the suspected pirate of its violation before imposing a fine. Illegal operators of stations could face fines of $100,000 per day, up to a total of $2 million. The law also allows penalties against landlords who are found to have “willfully and knowingly” allowed pirates to broadcast from their properties. The Federal Register notice of the effective date of these new rules is here and we wrote more about the PIRATE Act, here.
We will also be watching for some upcoming decisions. By April 15, we should see a decision from the Copyright Royalty Board on the new royalty rates for royalties paid to SoundExchange by broadcasters and other webcasters for the public performance of sound recordings in non-interactive audio programming streamed on the Internet. These rates will be retroactive to January 1, 2021, so there will be a true-up process as stations and other streamers have been paying the old rates for the last few months and will continue to do so until the new rates are finalized. The new rates will be effective through the end of 2025. We wrote more about the upcoming decision and the pandemic-related delays which prevented a decision before the effective date for the new rates, here. Some Supreme Court watchers think a decision could come as early as April in FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project, the case argued in January of this year reviewing the FCC’s media ownership rules, including the abolition of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership prohibition and the relaxation of local TV ownership rules. The Court generally issues opinions through the end of its term in early July, so release of the opinion will likely fall between now and then. We wrote about the case and the January oral argument, here.
Thank you for reading and, as always, stay tuned to the blog throughout the month for updates and commentary on broadcast and media issues.
Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog