Two More Paperwork Burdens Proposed for Relaxation Under FCC’s Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative – TV Ancillary and Supplementary Revenue Reports and Public Notice Requirements

In addition to the elimination of the main studio rule (about which we wrote here), another media item is proposed for consideration at the FCC’s October 24 meeting. A draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was released earlier this week proposing two changes in FCC requirements – neither change, in and of itself, offering any fundamental modifications of significant regulation, but both showing that this Commission is looking to eliminate bothersome burdens on broadcasters where those burdens are unnecessary in today’s media world or where they do not serve any real regulatory purpose. One change proposes to limit the requirement for TV stations to file Ancillary and Supplementary Revenue Reports to those stations that actually have such revenue, and the other proposing to eliminate the obligation of broadcasters to publish local public notice of significant application filings in a local newspaper.

The first deals with the filing by TV stations of FCC Form 2100, Schedule G (formerly Form 317), which reports on the ancillary and supplementary services revenue received by the TV station. This revenue is received by data transmission and other non-broadcast uses of the station’s spectrum. The report is necessary as, by law, each station offering such services must pay a fee of 5% of that revenue to the Federal government. So, by December 1 of each year, under current rules, each TV station must file the form stating how much revenue they received from these non-broadcast services. As most TV stations have not monetized their excess digital capacity by making it available for non-broadcast “ancillary and supplementary” services, most stations dutifully submit a report each December saying that they have not received any such revenue. To minimize paperwork burdens, the FCC draft NPRM proposes to amend the rule so that the majority of stations need not file this report simply to say that they have no revenue – the obligation to file the report would apply only to those stations that actually have some revenue to report.

The second proposed change deals with FCC-mandated public notice requirements. When filing significant applications (e.g. applications for approval of a proposed sale of a station through an assignment or transfer, license renewal applications, and applications for new stations or major changes in the facilities of an existing station), most broadcasters have to give public notice of the filing of the application both by broadcasting it on the station and by publishing the notice in a local newspaper in the community that the station serves. The FCC draft NPRM seeks comments on whether to repeal the obligation to give public notice entirely as most of these applications are available through the FCC’s databases (including in the online public file) and public notices, or whether to allow some or all of the notice obligations to be met exclusively through broadcasts on the station, or through a combination of broadcasts and online positing of those notices. The Commission tentatively concludes that some modernization of the requirement is required, but asks a number of questions including whether the type of application and type of station make a difference in what notice obligations should be required (e.g. should newspaper notice be kept only for applications for new stations as the applicant has no station on which to broadcast notice and likely no website on which to post such notice). The FCC also asks, to the extent that public notice obligations are retained, if the rule (which is incredibly confusing to read as it demands different elements in the notices of different types of applications and imposes different broadcast and publication schedules) should be simplified.

The draft NPRM will be considered at the FCC’s October 24 meeting. If adopted at that meeting, comment dates will later be set when the final version of the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.