This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: December 4, 2021 to December 10, 2021

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

  • FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel was confirmed by the Senate to serve a new, five-year term. (Rosenworcel Statement)  She will continue to lead an agency split along partisan lines with two Commissioners from each party until a third Democratic Commissioner is confirmed.  Gigi Sohn, a public interest lawyer and former FCC senior staffer under Chairman Tom Wheeler, has been nominated for that third seat, but her nomination has faced resistance.  Her nomination is not scheduled to be considered at a December 15 Senate Commerce Committee meeting which will consider other nominations.  Further action on that nomination may be delayed until the New Year.
  • The FCC’s Media Bureau denied a request by the NAB and two other industry groups to delay implementation of the FCC’s new sponsorship identification rules for programming financially supported by a foreign government entity. The industry groups wanted the FCC to let the court challenge the groups filed play out before allowing the rules to become effective. (Order) Even though the FCC denied this request, the rules are not yet effective as they are undergoing a Paperwork Reduction Act review.  Once effective, the new rules will require broadcast licensees to air specific disclosures for programming that is paid for by any foreign government-backed entity.  Licensees also will be required to take steps to determine if any buyer of block programming on their stations, including existing programmers who seek to renew their agreements, have ties to a foreign government entity.
  • The FCC dismissed 75 technically defective applications filed in the recent window for new noncommercial educational FM stations. Some of the defects appear minor, while others are more significant.  These applicants have one opportunity to file an amendment that clears up the technical defect with a petition for reconsideration of dismissal.  The amendment can only propose a minor change and cannot create any new conflicts with other already-submitted applications.  The amendments and petitions must be filed by January 7, 2022.  (Public Notice) (Dismissed Applications List)
  • A Las Vegas radio station faces a $20,000 fine for apparently transmitting EAS Tones during a block of leased time used by a local radio host, when no emergency or EAS test had occurred. This is a reminder that the FCC takes seriously any unauthorized use of EAS tones and will issue fines or take other enforcement actions against a station licensee, even if the violation occurred during a block of leased time. Part of this fine was for the broadcast of the programming containing the EAS tone on a multicast channel of an FM station, making clear that these channels are just as subject to FCC rules as are a station’s main channel.  (Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture)

Looking ahead to next week, the FCC will hold its last regular monthly Open Meeting of the year.  The Commissioners are expected to vote to open a rulemaking to examine whether to require that a predetermined script be used for visual display of EAS messages, and to require that stations, whenever they receive an alert (including state and local alerts) from their legacy (over-the-air) EAS alerting system, check their IPAWS Internet-delivered CAP (Common Alerting Protocol) based system to see if additional visual information about the alert has been provided, as that IP-based system allows for alerts containing more visual information.  The FCC also asks for suggestions on how the current, legacy EAS can be updated to make those systems more robust in providing visual information. (Fact Sheet and Draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking).  Tune it at at 10:30 am Eastern on December 14 to watch the meeting.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog