December Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO, TV and Translator Filing Windows, Ancillary Revenue Reports, Main Studio Rule Effective Date, Copyright Office Take-Down Notice Registration and More

While the end of the year is just about upon us, that does not mean that broadcasters can ignore the regulatory world and celebrate the holidays all through December. In fact, this will be a busy regulatory month, as witnessed by the list of issues that we wrote about yesterday to be considered at the FCC meeting on December 14. But, in addition to those issues, there are plenty of other deadlines to keep any broadcaster busy.

December 1 is the due date for all sorts of EEO obligations. By that date, Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees need to place their Annual EEO Public File Reports into the public file (their online public file for TV stations and large-market radio and for those other radio stations that have already converted to the online public file). In addition, EEO Mid-Term Reports on FCC Form 397 are due to be filed at the FCC on December 1 by Radio Station Employment Units with 11 or more full-time employees in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont; and Television Employment Units with five or more full-time employees in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. We wrote more about the Mid-Term EEO Report here.

Biennial Ownership Reports were at one time scheduled to be filed on December 1 but, as we wrote here, that deadline has now been pushed back until March 2. The new FCC Forms for filing those reports will be available for use on December 1, so stations wanting to get this obligation out of the way can go ahead and file this month.

Both radio and TV stations interested in facilities improvements also have filing deadlines this month. The FCC has temporarily lifted the freeze on TV stations that were not repacked in the incentive auction, allowing them to file minor change applications to improve their facilities. See our article here. The opportunity for these stations to file for improvements in their facilities opened yesterday, and will remain open through December 7. TV stations contemplating improvements in their facilities should take this opportunity to file, as the freeze will be reimposed after the window ends, while TV translators and LPTV stations that were displaced by the incentive auction have their opportunity to file for displacement channels (see our article here on that displacement window) .

For radio, those AM stations that filed for new FM translators this summer and have been declared to be “singletons,” can file long-form applications specifying the exact facilities that they plan to construct. Those long-form applications can be filed in a window from December 1 through December 21. See our article here. As the FCC’s Audio Division is usually very quick to process translator applications, it is even possible that those who file early in the window will get construction permits granted by the end of the year.

December 1 is also traditionally the deadline for TV stations to file with the FCC their reports on Ancillary and Supplementary Revenues – those nonbroadcast revenues that they received in the past year, on which they must pay a 5% payment to the FCC. As we wrote here, the FCC is considering making these reports mandatory only for the few TV stations that actually have such revenue. Thus, while the FCC considers the rule change, they have suspended the filing requirement for all stations that have no such revenue (see our article here).

Broadcasters are also expecting to see the Order abolishing the main studio rule published in the Federal Register almost any day now. See our articles here and here on the abolition of the main studio rule. If the FCC decision is published this week, as the rule goes into effect 30 days after publication, there is still a chance that some broadcasters can implement the change this year, and not have to renew leases for studio space in January.

We have also reminded media companies that allow third-parties to post material on their websites that the Copyright Office has adopted a new electronic system for registering the names of designated agents who can be served with take-down notices from copyright owners demanding that content that infringes on intellectual property rights be removed from the website. For that registration to be valid, helping to insulate the website owner from liability under the “safe harbor” of Section 512 of the Copyright Act for copyright infringement contained in third-party content, registration of the agent for take-down notices must be completed by December 31. For more information, see our articles here and here.

These are but some of the important regulatory dates facing broadcasters and other media companies this month. As always, consult with your own attorney about the details of these items, and to make sure that there are not other dates that may apply to your stations that we have not highlighted in this list. So enjoy the holiday season, but stay vigilant about your regulatory obligations and opportunities.