This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: March 6, 2021 to March 12, 2021

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

  • The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau reminded stations of their obligation to comply with all sponsorship identification rules and to disclose information about the sponsors of all paid-for programming. It is the station licensee’s responsibility to ensure that, if it receives anything of value in exchange for the airing of any on-air content, the station must disclose that consideration to its listeners.  Stations also have an obligation to inquire of each of their program providers, including syndicators and time brokers, to assure that none have received any undisclosed consideration for the inclusion of any content in programs that they provide.  (Public Notice)
  • The FCC’s Media Bureau reminded commercial broadcasters of their obligation to upload to their online public files every “sharing” agreement for the operation of a station whether involving time brokerage agreements (TBAs), joint sales agreements (JSAs), or shared services agreements (SSAs). These agreements must be placed in the public file within 30 days of execution and remain there for as long as the agreement is in force.  (Public Notice)
  • The FCC will conduct a hearing to determine whether a Georgia AM station’s license renewal should be denied. At issue is the station’s extended periods of silence since January 2018 when the current licensee took control of the station.  In recent years, the FCC has been aggressive with stations that have been silent for extended periods during their license term, denying license renewals or imposing other sanctions (like short-term renewals).  (Hearing Designation Order)
  • As part of the COVID-19 relief package signed Thursday by President Biden, $175 million was allocated to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for COVID-related emergency assistance for public radio and television stations, including a provision for fiscal stabilization grants.  The infusion of funds is intended to help public broadcasters respond to the coronavirus, allow them to maintain programming and services, and to preserve small and rural stations threatened by declines in non-Federal revenue, like revenue from state governments and private sources lost due to the economic downturn. (R.1319 Section 7601)
  • The FCC’s Audio Division acted on a complaint of interference by a full-power station against a new FM translator. As part of its decision, the FCC required that the complaining station and the translator operator jointly conduct on-off tests to determine if the translator is the source of the alleged interference – and to report the results of the tests to the FCC.  The decision is a good review of the FCC’s policies for resolving translator interference complaints.  (Audio Division letter).  See our articles here and here for more on the FCC’s procedures for resolving engineering complaints about new FM translators.

Looking ahead to next week, Monday, March 15 is the deadline to file for a one-time extension of not more than 180 days of the July 13 date which is important for (1) analog low-power TV and TV translator stations which must transition to digital by that date and (2) construction permits for new digital LPTV stations granted prior to the TV Incentive Auction which expire on that date.  We wrote more about this deadline, here.  Also, with March Madness starting next week, if you are planning advertising or promotions around these basketball games, you should review the articles here and here from our Broadcast Law Blog to make sure that you do not run afoul of the NCAA’s enforcement of its trademark rights in the many catchphrases used in connection with the tournaments.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog