This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: August 6, 2022 to August 12, 2022

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC’s Media Bureau released a consent decree, including the payment of a $60,000 penalty, with an LPTV station operator to resolve sponsorship identification issues, including those associated with political ad sales. FCC staff alleged that the LPTV station was airing paid-for appearances by legally qualified candidates in what appeared to be a local news program without disclosing that the candidates had actually paid to be in the news segments.  The Bureau found that the station was offering candidates the opportunity to purchase an “All-in-One” advertising package for $1,500 which explicitly included advertising spots and a personal live interview in the news program.  In addition, the station had accepted money from several commercial entities in exchange for interviewing their spokespersons on the news program, again without the required sponsorship ID.  Along with paying a $60,000 civil penalty, the station operator admitted in the consent decree that it violated the FCC’s sponsorship identification rules and agreed to implement a five-year compliance plan with regular reporting requirements.  The Consent Decree noted that the $60,000 financial penalty was determined taking into account the licensee’s ability to pay, suggesting that it would have been higher for a more profitable station.  Look for more on this decision on our Broadcast Law Blog this coming week.
  • The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued a Forfeiture Order imposing a $25,000 fine against a Florida LPFM licensee for failing to comply with the terms of its license, failing to make its station available for inspection, and EAS violations.  The Bureau found that the licensee operated its station at the wrong power level, with the wrong antenna from the wrong location, failed to make the station available for inspection, and failed to maintain required EAS equipment.  Among other things, the station was operating with an effective radiated power (“ERP”) of 177 watts (instead of the authorized 20 watts), and with a two-bay antenna (instead of a single-bay antenna), ultimately resulting in an ERP that was 8.88 times the authorized power level and far in excess of the 100-watt maximum for LPFM stations.  The licensee did not contest the Bureau’s findings but requested a reduction or rescission of the proposed penalty.  The Bureau denied that request.
  • As we are now in hurricane season, the FCC released its annual Public Notice reminding television broadcasters of the importance of emergency information broadcast on the station being accessible to viewers who are visually or hearing impaired. See our summary of the issues covered by this reminder here.
  • The FCC’s decision, making clear that Class D educational FM stations with “instructional programming” are exempt from the obligation to prepare and retain Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, was published in the Federal Register this week. We noted that decision in a prior weekly update here. The publication sets the effective date of the rule change as September 12, 2022, though that date has little real effect as the rule change merely codifies existing FCC policy.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog