September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Including Reg Fees, Nationwide EAS Test, Must-Carry Letters, Lowest Unit Rate, Translator and Repack Deadlines and GMR License Extension

Summer is coming to an end, but the legal obligations never take a vacation, and September brings another list of regulatory deadlines for broadcasters. While the month is one of those without the usual list of EEO Public File obligations or quarterly FCC filing obligations, there still are a number of other regulatory deadlines for which broadcasters need to be prepared.

For commercial broadcasters, the September date that should be on everyone’s mind is the deadline for the payment of annual regulatory fees. As we wrote here, there is an FCC order circulating among the Commissioners that should be released any day, setting the amounts of the regulatory fees and the deadline for their payment. These fees will almost certainly be due in September, prior to the start of the government’s fiscal year on October 1. So stay alert for the announcement of the window for paying these “reg fees.”

Broadcasters will also be dealing with the Nationwide EAS Test scheduled for September 27, though as we wrote here, it could be pushed back to October if there is a real emergency that is pending near the September 27 deadline. By Monday, stations need to have completed the ETRS Form One to be prepared to report on the results of the test (see our article here).

TV stations’ must-carry and retransmission consent letters must be received by cable or satellite carriers by October 1 of this year – so these letters should be going out by certified mail to MVPDs soon if they have not already been sent. By October 1, copies of the election letters sent to all the MVPDs need to be uploaded to the station’s online public file.

For those stations serving states with off-year elections on November 7 (including governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia and a host of state and local elections in other states), lowest unit rates go into effect on September 8. As we have written before, candidates for state and local offices do not have reasonable access rights – meaning that they cannot demand access to all classes and dayparts of advertising available on a station. But if a station makes time available to one candidate in a race, it must treat all candidates for the same race equally by making time available to them, and starting on September 8, that time must be sold at lowest unit rates. See our articles here and here on this issue.

We would expect that the next steps in the processing of the FM translator applications filed last month by AM stations will take place in September, with the FCC giving notice of which applications are mutually exclusive (and setting dates for a settlement window when resolutions of any conflicts between such applicants can be negotiated). Notice will also be given as to which applications are “singletons” – or not in conflict with any other applications. Those singleton applications will have to file the remainder of FCC Form 349 and will be subject to petitions to deny before they can be granted. Look for more on the processing of these applications next month. For more information, see our article here.

Other deadlines this month include the end of the first window to file construction permit applications for new facilities by certain TV stations affected by the incentive auction that are not able to build or to replicate their current signals on their new channels assigned by the FCC. Shortly after the September 8 end of this first window, the FCC will announce another window for all other repacked stations to seek improvements in their facilities (see our post here). Watch for those deadlines.

Commercial radio stations will also need to elect whether they want to accept GMR’s offer of an extended interim license to play GMR music through March of next year (see our article here). That election is due by the end of September.

And, as always, watch for other deadlines that may affect your operations. Even in a deregulatory time such as what we seem to be in, there still are many legal and regulatory deadlines and obligations that broadcasters must observe. Make sure you pay attention to the ones that affect your stations.