February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: License Renewals, EEO Reporting, KidVid Reports, Zonecasting Comments, FCC Open Meeting, and More

With the federal government and the FCC under new management, Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel may well take the Commission in a direction that aligns with the policies she supported during her time as a Commissioner.  It is notable that, no matter what policies she advances, the routine regulatory dates that fill up a broadcaster’s calendar are generally unchanged.  Some of the dates and deadlines which broadcasters should remember in February are discussed below.  Given the transition period that we have just been through, the number of February dates are somewhat lighter than in most months – but that is sure to pick up as everyone settles into their new roles at the FCC.

On or before February 1, radio stations in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma and television stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi 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) and, if they are part of a station employment unit (a station or a group of commonly owned stations in the same market that share at least one employee) with 5 or more full-time employees, upload to their public file and post a link on their station website to their Annual EEO Public Inspection File report covering their hiring and employment outreach activities for the twelve months from February 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021.  TV and radio stations licensed to communities in New Jersey and New York which are part of an employment unit with 5 or more full-time employees also must upload to their public inspection file their Annual EEO Public Inspection File report by February 1.

For the first time, TV broadcasters must submit a Children’s Television Programming Report that covers a full year and not just one quarter.  Following the FCC’s 2019 KidVid rule changes, which we summarized here, reports are now submitted to the FCC annually by January 30.  Because January 30 is a Saturday this year, the report is due to be filed by the next business day—Monday, February 1.  FCC rules also require that stations place in their public files by January 30 of each year records documenting compliance with the limits on the number of commercial minutes that stations can run during children’s programming.  Note that the commercial limits records are not formally filed with the FCC so arguably the January 30 deadline applies, although an FCC staff presentation indicated that the deadline is February 1.

Interested parties should be aware that comments are due by February 10 in the FCC’s FM booster zonecasting proceeding.  The proposal would allow FM boosters to originate limited amounts of programming (up to 5%—or 3 minutes—of any program hour) different from their primary stations.  Stations could target hyper-local content like local news, advertisements, and weather information to different parts of the station’s coverage area.  Reply comments are due by March 12.  See our blog post, here, for more information.

The FCC is scheduled to hold its next Open Meeting on February 17—the first Open Meeting under Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  At the time of writing this post, it is unclear what will be on the agenda for the meeting.  The agenda will be available, here, when it becomes available.

Looking ahead to March, any analog LPTV or TV translator that believes that it will not be ready to digital operations by the July 13 deadline has until March 13 to file a request for an extension of that deadline date.  Also, TV operators may be interested in filing comments by the March 8 deadline in the Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry looking to assess the impact of the abolition of the statutory copyright license that allowed satellite television operators to import distant network signals into TV markets where there were households arguably not being served by a local network affiliate (see our article here).

These are highlights of the dates to watch in February but be sure to keep in touch with your station’s counsel to stay on top of specific dates and deadlines applicable to your operations.  As the new administration takes shape, watch our blog, the trade press, and the FCC website for more information on new FCC actions.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog