This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters:  May 29, 2021 to June 4, 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.

  • Because of the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year upholding the Commission’s 2017 relaxation of certain media ownership rules, the FCC reinstated those rule changes. Rules reinstated include the elimination of the Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule, the Radio/Television Cross-Ownership Rule, the Local Television Ownership Rule’s “eight-voices” test (which prohibited the ownership of two TV stations in one market unless there would be 8 independent TV operators in the market after the proposed combination) and the Television Joint Sales Agreement Attribution Rule (which counted a station receiving sales services under a JSA as if the station was owned by the party providing those services).  The absolute ban on top-four television station combinations was also eliminated, returning to the case-by-case assessment adopted in 2017 for those proposals.  See the FCC’s order, here.
  • As the Supreme Court decision cleared the way for the FCC to resume its review of its ownership rules, the FCC announced that it would open a new comment window to refresh the record established when it began a new Quadrennial Review of these rules in 2018. This review features possible changes to the local radio ownership limits were little affected by the rule changes made in 2017.  The Commission asks for comments on industry developments since parties submitted their views in this Quadrennial Review in 2019, including how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the broadcast industry.  Comments will be due 30 days after the FCC’s notice asking for these comments is published in the Federal Register.  Read the entire Public Notice to learn more, and watch for our thoughts on the issues raised in the open Quadrennial Review on our Blog this week.
  • The FCC announced the status of the 158 short-form applications it received for Auction 109, the upcoming auction of 136 FM and 4 AM construction permits for new radio stations. Of the 158 applications, 107 were classified as complete, 50 were classified as incomplete, and one was rejected.  (Complete applications, incomplete applications, rejected application).  To become a qualified bidder, upfront payments are due by June 16, as are corrections to any application found to be incomplete.  See the Public Notice, here.
  • As we previewed in last week’s regulatory update, we took a longer look at the various LPFM proposals being considered by the FCC. We wrote about two of the technical proposals that are likely to be rejected by the Commissioners at their June 17 meeting and a new proposal that seeks an increase in maximum power of LPFM stations to 250 watts – all looking forward to a future window for the filing of applications for new LPFM stations.  (Broadcast Law Blog)
  • Just before Facebook announced that it would continue its suspension of former President Trump from its platform for at least another two years, we published a blog article about a related move by Facebook: its decision to subject politicians to the same Community Standards that it enforces against other users. The company had said previously that posts by politicians were especially newsworthy and therefore should receive less scrutiny and censorship.  Our article highlights the different legal standards that apply to broadcasters and online platforms in dealing with content from political candidates.  (Broadcast Law Blog)

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog