October Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Renewals and EEO Obligations, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Rulemaking Comments and More

With regulatory fees due today, September 30, 2022 (extended from September 28 because of the effects of Hurricane Ian and some other technical issues with fee payment by this FCC Public Notice, with the date for waiver requests similarly extended by this Public Notice), it is time to look ahead to October and some of the regulatory dates and deadlines that broadcasters have coming in the month ahead.

October starts with the TV license renewal deadlines for Television, Class A, LPTV, and TV Translator Stations in Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, N. Marianas Islands, Oregon and Washington State.  The deadline for filing is October 3 as the 1st of the month falls on a Saturday, thus extending the deadline to the next business day.  As we have previously advised,  renewal applications must be accompanied by FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 Broadcast EEO Program Report (except for LPFMs and TV translators).  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.  Note that your Broadcast EEO Program Report must include two years of Annual 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 and consult with your advisors if you have questions, especially if you have noticed any discrepancies in your online public file or political file.  Issues with the public file have already led to fines imposed on TV broadcasters during this renewal cycle.

October 3 (also extended as the 1st is a weekend day) is also the deadline by which radio and television station employment units with five or more full-time employees licensed to communities in Alaska, American Samoa, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, N. Mariana Islands, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and Washington must upload Annual EEO Public File Reports to station online public inspection files.  This 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 a station’s website, if it has a website.

For those stations that are subject to the FCC’s EEO Audit Notice released in August, they have until October 7 to respond to that notice by uploading the required information into their online public inspection file.  For more on that audit notice, see our article here.

Because of the federal holiday on October 10, October 11 is the deadline for all full-power broadcast and Class A TV stations to upload their Quarterly Issues Programs lists to station online public inspection files.  The lists should identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station aired in July, August and September that addressed those issues.  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 post here for more on the importance of the Quarterly Issues Programs list obligation.  Also, as we noted here, the FCC has given stations in Puerto Rico an extension until November 14 to upload their Quarterly Issues Programs lists because of the effect of Hurricane Fiona.  Watch to see if the FCC gives stations in states affected by Hurricane Ian a similar extension.

Other quarterly public file obligations for that October 11th date include the dates by which Class A TV stations should upload to their public file documentation of Class A Television Continuing Eligibility for July 1, 2022 through September 30, 2022 and the date by which noncommercial educational broadcast stations provide documentation of any on-air fundraising they conducted that interrupted normal programming to benefit third parties in the period from July 1 through September 30.  See our articles here and here about that obligation.

With election season now in full swing, stations should remember their obligations to give all candidates – federal, state, and local – lowest unit rates when they buy advertising for their campaigns (see our articles here and here).  Similarly, stations need to remember to be uploading to their public file information about the price, schedule and class of time purchased by any candidate or any federal issue advertiser to their online public file within one business day of the date on which the order for that time was received.  For more on political file issues, see this article with a link to a video of a training session that I conducted explaining all of these political file requirements.

October also brings the date for comments in certain FCC rulemaking proceedings.   Comments are due October 26, with reply comments due November 25, 2022 on the FCC’s request for comment on the methodology that it uses to allocate its employees to determine annual regulatory fees. This proceeding is important, as the allocation of FCC employees determines the regulatory fees paid by each industry regulated by the FCC.  The fees are established to reimburse the government for the costs of FCC operations, allocated by the percentage of FCC employees whose time is spent regulating a particular industry.  The proceeding raises issues as to how FCC’s employees who perform functions that are not industry specific should be allocated to specific fee payers, including broadcasters.

Comments are due on October 24, and reply comments are due November 7, 2022, on the FCC’s Order and Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (on which we previously reported) to delete or revise analog rules for LPTV and television translator stations that no longer have any practical effect or that are otherwise obsolete or irrelevant after the transition of these stations to digital operation.

Under the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, United States-based foreign media outlets providing video programming must submit by October 12 their next semi-annual report disclosing their relationships with their foreign principals, including a description of the legal structure of such relationships and any funding the outlets receive from their foreign principals.  See the reminder issued by the Media Bureau for more information as to who is covered by this requirement and the specific means to be used by such outlets to provide these reports.

The Federal Trade Commission has an ongoing proceeding seeking additional public comment on how children are affected by digital advertising and marketing messages that may blur the line between ads and entertainment (see their announcement about the proceeding). The FTC has an October 19, 2022 virtual event that will examine this topic. The public will have until November 18, 2022 to submit comments. Information on how to submit comments is available on the event page.

As always, this list of dates is not exhaustive and comment deadlines can change.  Always review these dates with your legal and technical advisors, and note other dates not listed here that may be relevant to your operations.  While the year may be winding down, regulatory obligations never stop, so remember to be alert to the ones that may affect your operations.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog