This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: July 17, 2021 to July 23, 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.

  • The four television network affiliates groups have asked the FCC to clarify its new rules for sponsorship identification of programming paid for or produced by foreign governments or their representatives. The new rules require broadcasters to inquire of any party purchasing program time as to whether they are representatives of foreign governments, and to confirm the response by searching a database maintained by the Department of Justice of companies that are representatives of a foreign government.  The FCC provided an exception to the requirements of the enhanced sponsorship identification and the investigation into the foreign connections of the programming buyer for “traditional short-form advertising.”  The affiliate groups want the FCC to clarify that the new rules do not apply to advertising regardless of its length.  (Affiliate Groups Petition).  These rules are also being reviewed under the Paperwork Reduction Act, and a Federal Register publication this week sets a September 20 deadline for interested parties to file comments on the information collection requirements imposed by these rules.  (Federal Register)
  • The FCC released a Public Notice this week with more information on how to apply for new reserved-band noncommercial educational FM stations during the November 2-9 filing window. Applicants may file or hold attributable interests in up to ten applications.  Other requirements set out by the Media Bureau include that applicants must certify that (1) they are an entity qualified to hold a noncommercial educational FM license (nonprofit educational institution, governmental entity, or nonprofit educational organization); (2) the entity has the financial ability to build the new station and run it for at least three months; and (3) the entity has reasonable assurance that its specified transmitter site will be available for the construction and operation of the proposed station.  The FCC also will impose a freeze on certain FM minor change applications from October 5 through November 9 to stabilize the FM database while potential applicants prepare their applications.  (Public Notice)
  • President Biden has nominated Jonathan Kanter to be chief of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division. The division examines transactions and mergers that could affect competition in the marketplace.  The antitrust division has in the past provided opinions as to what competitors are part of the broadcast marketplace (thus far not fully acknowledging that digital media is in the same competitive market as broadcasters leading to challenges to some broadcast mergers).  It also oversees the long-standing ASCAP and BMI consent decrees that have been reviewed by the last two administrations.  (White House Nomination)
  • In a slight change from what was previously published in the Federal Register, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a Public Notice indicating that the deadline for filing State EAS Plans and for complying with the content requirements for the plans is now July 5, 2022, not July 1, 2022. The content requirements can be found in the FCC’s rules, here.  (Public Notice)

A review of certain FCC’s EEO policies has been removed after five months from the list of items being considered by FCC Commissioners.  This may mean that the item has been adopted by a majority of the Commissioners and will be released within the next few days.  Watch the FCC website for more on the contents of the item.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog