This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: January 22, 2022 to January 28, 2022

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.

  • The FCC adopted two items of interest to broadcasters that were on the agenda for its January 27 Open Meeting.
    • Broadcasters will have to consider social media activity and a campaign website when determining if a write-in candidate has made a “substantial showing” that they are a “legally qualified candidate.” Legally qualified candidates receive the benefits and protections of the FCC’s political broadcasting rules.  The FCC also brought its rules in line with existing federal statutory requirements that require stations to upload to their political file information about advertising on federal issue ads.  Broadcasters are already required by the statute to do this, so the adoption of this rule does not change a station’s recordkeeping obligations.  For more information, see our blog post on these issues, here, and the Report and Order, here.
    • The FCC modified its rules to allow for better protection of wireless microphones from the use of “white space” spectrum (portions of the broadcast TV bands at locations where frequencies are not being used by TV broadcasters). When the new rules become effective, they will require fixed and personal/portable white space devices to check white space databases at least once per hour for other spectrum users to be protected from interference, replacing a current rule that has not been enforced requiring the databases to push information to white spaces devices whenever there is new wireless microphone use in the area.  The FCC also opened a rulemaking that seeks comment on how often white space devices should be required to check white space databases.  Comments and reply comments on the rulemaking will be due 30 days and 60 days, respectively, after publication in the Federal Register.  The new rules will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.  (Second Order on Reconsideration, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order)
  • The FCC sent notices to broadcasters who had not filed their required Biennial Ownership Reports by the December 1, 2021 deadline that they needed to do so by March 1. As we wrote on the Broadcast Law Blog this week, these notices may be a last chance for AM, FM, TV and LPTV broadcasters to comply with the Biennial Ownership Report filing requirement before penalties are imposed.  (Broadcast Law Blog article)
  • The FCC told the owners of land in Arkansas on which an abandoned tower sits to dismantle the tower within 90 days. The tower was at one time was used for an FM station but has been neglected for years and has not been properly illuminated since 2005, posing a hazard to aircraft.  The ownership of the tower was unknown as the FM station with which it was associated had its license cancelled and the company that owned the station was long ago dissolved (the tower was still registered to a prior owner of the FM station, which had also been dissolved).  The landowner feared dismantling the tower without authority, which the FCC provided in this Order.  The decision reminds broadcasters to update tower registrations and to either continue to light towers or dismantle them when they are no longer in use. (Order)
  • The FCC issued further guidance on its termination of filings in its old broadcast application database, CDBS. CDBS had until January 12 still been used for filings of a limited number of applications not yet migrated to the newer LMS database, including many AM technical applications and STA requests for all broadcast services.  The further guidance addresses the process for the payment of filing fees and the submission of Anti-Drug Abuse Act certifications with the applications that are now filed through emails to FCC staff.  (Public Notice).  For more on this further notice, see our Blog article here, and our article here on the end of CDBS filings.
  • The FCC released a draft Report and Order that, if adopted at its regular monthly open meeting for February to be held on the 18th, will update several technical radio rules. The changes correct inconsistencies in some FCC rules and clarifies the wording of others.  The changes also clarify city-coverage requirements for NCE FM stations, lessen second-adjacent channel interference protections to Class D NCE FM stations, and update some FM spacing requirements in border areas to conform to treaty obligations.  (Draft Report and Order)
  • The Senate Commerce Committee on February 2 will vote on the nomination of Gigi Sohn to be an FCC Commissioner (Executive Session agenda). If Sohn’s nomination is voted out of committee, it will advance to the full Senate for consideration.  Sohn has agreed to recuse herself for three years from retransmission consent and TV copyright issues and for four years from matters arising under a retransmission consent rules docket.  New NAB President & CEO Curtis LeGeyt said the recusal promise satisfies NAB.

On the Broadcast Law blog: Our law partner Mitch Stabbe refreshed his yearly reminder on staying out of trouble when running Super Bowl advertising and promotions, addressing trademark and copyright issues that can arise from the use of the term “Super Bowl” and other associated NFL brands.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog