February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Children’s TV Reporting, License Renewals, EEO Filings, FCC Proceedings, and More

Before we jump into February dates, let’s take a look at some important dates still to come in January.  Noncommercial radio applicants whose applications were found to be mutually exclusive (MX) with one or more other applications filed in the reserved band window have through January 28 to submit technical amendments or work with others in their MX group to enter into settlement agreements or otherwise resolve conflicts.  See the MX groups, here, and the Public Notice setting out the details of the settlement window and filing procedures, here.

By January 31, television stations must fulfill their now-annual obligation to prepare and file a  Children’s Television Programming Report (Form 2100, Schedule H).  Also due to be uploaded to the online public file is a certification of compliance with commercial limits in children’s programming.  Schedule H would normally be due to be filed by January 30 but, as that date is a Sunday this year, the filing deadline is the next business day—January 31.  Records documenting compliance with the limits on the number of commercial minutes that stations can allow in children’s programming are also due to be uploaded to each full-power and Class A TV station’s public file by January 31—another January 30 deadline pushed to the next business day.  As a reminder, the quarterly filings were replaced with annual filings as part of the 2019 KidVid rule changes (we summarized those changes, here).

January 31 is also the date by which radio broadcasters must respond to the proposed music licensing agreement agreed to by new performing rights organization GMR and the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC).  If enough broadcasters opt into this agreement, it will end the long-running litigation between GMR and RMLC.  See our blog post here with thoughts on some of the considerations that broadcasters should take into account in deciding whether to accept the GMR license agreement.

By February 1TV stations in KansasNebraska, and Oklahoma and radio stations in New York and New Jersey must file their license renewal applications through the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS) on Form 2100, Schedule 303-S.  Stations filing for renewal of their license should make sure that all documents required to be uploaded to the station’s online public file are complete and were uploaded on time.  Stations filing renewals (other than LPFMs and TV translators) are also required to file a Broadcast EEO Program Report (FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396that must include two years of EEO Public File reports for FCC review, unless your employment unit employs fewer than five full-time employees.  Be sure to read the instructions for the license renewal application (radioTV) and EEO Program Report and consult with counsel if you have questions.

Also on or before February 1, all radio and TV station employment units (a station employment unit is a station or stations that share at least one full-time employee, are in the same geographic area, and are under common control) with five or more full-time employees licensed to communities in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma must upload to their online public inspection file an Annual EEO Public File report.  This report covers their hiring and employment outreach activities for February 1, 2021 through January 31, 2022.  These licensees must also post on the homepage of their station website (if they have one) a link to the most recent report.

Now that certain retransmission consent rules have been effective for at least a year, the FCC wants to hear if they are working as intended.  Specifically, the FCC wants to know if the rule changes that allow smaller cable and satellite providers to negotiate collectively as a buying group for retransmission consent with large broadcast station groups, and require large broadcast station groups to negotiate in good faith for retransmission consent with a qualified cable or satellite buying group are working.  The FCC wants information on whether smaller cable and satellite buying groups are using these new provisions and whether they have worked to level the playing field.  Interested parties should consult the Public Notice and have their comments in by February 3.  Reply comments are due by March 7.

In a rulemaking proceeding of interest to radio broadcasters, reply comments on the FCC’s proposal to change the rules for proofing of FM directional antennas were pushed back and are now due by February 4.  This proceeding seeks comments on proposals to allow the patterns for directional antennas to be verified by computer modeling as opposed to real-world testing.  See the Federal Register publication of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, here.  Comments submitted in the rulemaking can be read, here.

Comments are due by February 11 on the FCC’s Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the ATSC 3.0 (Next Gen TV) proceeding.  In that proceeding, the FCC proposes to allow Next Gen TV stations to include within their license certain of their multicast streams that are aired on “host” stations during a transitional period.  Under the FCC’s proposals, such multicast streams will be part of the originating station’s license, not that of the “host” station.  Reply comments will be due by March 14.  See the Federal Register notice, here.

The FCC will hold a required monthly meeting on February 18.  The draft items that are scheduled to be voted on at that meeting should be posted to the FCC website by the end of January.

Following a Federal Register publication, February 25 is the deadline for filing comments concerning Paperwork Reduction Act review of the estimated burden that will be imposed on broadcasters by the FCC’s new rules on sponsorship identification for foreign programming.  The new rules are being challenged in court by the NAB and other groups arguing that they would place an unreasonable burden on broadcasters, by requiring that they manually investigate a DOJ database whenever they sell a block of time on their stations to make sure that the buyer is not an agent of a foreign government.

Mark these dates on your calendar and check in with your station’s legal and engineering advisors for other dates and deadlines applicable to your operations.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog