This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: July 24, 2021 to July 30, 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 FCC wants to refresh the record on its collection of information about the race and gender of broadcast employees. This information was once collected from all broadcasters on an annual FCC Form 395 until use of that form was suspended by Court action in 2001 as it was seen as constitutionally suspect since its information was used to penalize broadcasters whose workforce profile did not match the racial and gender characteristics of their service area.  The proposal released last week asks interested parties to weigh in on reviving the collection of the data and whether the FCC should keep it confidential or otherwise anonymize it once collected.  The proposal also asked for comment on whether certain racial classifications need to be updated to align with current Equal Employment Opportunity Commission classifications, and for any other comments on the reviving the collection of this employee information.  Read the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for more details and watch the Federal Register for comment and reply comment deadlines.  (Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)
  • The FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics released two letters, in which it referred to the Enforcement Bureau for possible enforcement action, an apparent violation of the Prohibited Communications Rule disclosed by two applicants in Auction 109, the auction of AM and FM construction permits that began last week.  If you are ever involved in an FCC auction, take note of the Prohibited Communications Rule that prohibits communications among parties to an auction related to bidding amounts or bidding strategies once auction applications are filed. (Letter)
  • In an Order that was heavily redacted to protect confidential business information, the FCC affirmed its decision to fine 18 television stations $512,228 each for violations of the good faith negotiation requirements of the FCC’s retransmission consent rules. The FCC found that the stations shared a consultant who failed to negotiate in good faith with AT&T while negotiating for carriage on DirecTV.  Among other things, the consultant was found to have refused to negotiate carriage with AT&T for the 18 stations until AT&T agreed to a retransmission deal with another station group represented by the consultant.  Read the full decision for more details and read our blog post about the case when the fines were first proposed.  (Forfeiture Order)

To see what is coming for broadcasters in August, read our monthly feature on upcoming important regulatory dates and deadlines.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog