This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: May 15, 2021 to May 21, 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 asked for public comment on a proposal to increase from 100 to 250 watts the maximum power allowed for Low Power FM stations. This proposal has previously been raised by LPFM advocates many times, and thus far it has been rejected by the FCC (see our article here on a prior attempt).  Comments on this updated petition to raise the allowable power for LPFMs are due by June 21, 2021.  (Public Notice)(Petition for Rulemaking and Appendix)
  • As we noted in updates over the last three weeks (here and here), the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that sets out its tentative plan for assessing broadcast regulatory fees to be collected before October 1 of this year. Broadcasters can file comments now through June 3, with reply comments due by June 18.  (Federal Register). As the FCC’s proposal includes increases in some broadcast fees for the third year in a row, the proposal has met resistance from the National Association of Broadcasters.  Members of the NAB staff talked with FCC to voice their concern about the fee increases, especially in light of broadcast revenue decreases due to COVID.  The NAB argued that the FCC’s costs, used to determine the fees each regulated industry pays, were improperly allocated and that the fees for other industries, which were not as hard-hit by the pandemic, should bear a bigger burden in paying these costs.  (NAB Letter)
  • The FCC this week extended by two weeks the dates by which interested parties can submit comments on the FCC’s rules which arose after the passage of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The CVAA was designed to make broadcasts and other communications channels more accessible.  It has resulted in requirements including audio description of television programming and captioning of TV programming delivered over the internet.  Comments on whether any of these rules should be modified are now due on June 7, 2021 with replies due by July 6.  We wrote more about the CVAA and the request for comments, here.  (Public Notice)
  • This week, in ten separate actions, the FCC either changed, or proposed to change, the channel of a full-power television station from a VHF to a UHF channel. Since the FCC late last year lifted its freeze on channel changes by TV stations (see our article here), a freeze that had largely been in place for over a decade, many stations operating on VHF channels (13 and below) have requested to change their channels to UHF.  UHF channels (14 and above) are subject to less interference and provide better building penetration for digital operations, and these channels are also seen as superior for ATSC 3.0 operations (see our article here).
  • In legislative developments, we wrote on our blog this week about a congressional effort to establish a “Future of Local News Committee” that would be tasked with examining the state of local news in the United States. The committee would ultimately deliver a report to Congress with recommendations for protecting and enhancing local news operations, and potentially the federal funding of newsrooms.  (Future of Local News Committee Bill)

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog