This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: October 30, 2021 to November 5, 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.

  • In a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released Friday, the FCC proposed new rules to deal with the responsibility for multicast programming streams as TV stations transition to ATSC 3.0 (Next Gen TV). The FCC proposes to include programming that is broadcast on the multicast channels of host stations continuing to operate in ATSC 1.0 within the license of an ATSC 3.0 station originating that programming.  Comment is also sought on whether to include the programming steam of an ATSC 1.0 host station within the license of that station when its programming is included as a multicast channel on a station that has already converted to Next Gen TV.  The rulemaking is in response to an NAB petition asking the FCC to clarify its rules for licensing these multicast streams during the Next Gen TV transition.  Look for more details on this proceeding on the Broadcast Law Blog later this week.  Comments and reply comments on the proposals will be due 60 days and 90 days, respectively, after publication in the Federal Register.  (Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)
  • A Florida radio and TV licensee entered into a consent decree and will pay a $20,000 penalty for violating the FCC’s environmental rules. In this case, the licensee proposed construction of a tower within a designated habitat of the Florida bonneted bat, an endangered species.  The licensee began to clear vegetation from the site before an environmental assessment was completed and before the FCC approved construction.  The consent decree comes with the naming of a compliance officer, implementation of a compliance plan that includes employee training, filing of four compliance reports, and the monetary penalty.  Be sure you complete all necessary environmental reviews before starting the construction of any new facilities.  (Consent Decree)
  • An Alabama FM translator operator entered into a consent decree with the FCC and will pay a $13,000 fine for, among other things, changing transmitter sites without FCC permission, operating the translator at times when its primary station was off the air, and failing to notify the FCC as required when the translator was silent for more than 10 consecutive days. (Consent Decree).
    • In another FM translator matter, a translator in Colorado was sent a Notice of Violation for commencing operations on a new channel without filing a license application on Schedule 350. Translators are not to commence operations with newly authorized facilities without first filing an application for a license once construction of the new facilities has been completed.  (Notice of Violation)
  • The FCC reminded potential applicants that applications for new noncommercial educational FM stations are due by 6 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, November 9. Applicants in this NCE window may submit up to ten applications for consideration by the FCC.  If you have not yet submitted your application(s), read the Public Notice that sets out the filing procedures and our blog post on the matter.  (Public Notice)
  • Stations that have not yet made progress preparing their biennial ownership report should not rely on an extension of the December 1 filing deadline and should aim to file their report before the deadline to allow for FCC database slowdowns. We wrote more about this reporting obligation, and the potential for penalties for stations that don’t meet the deadline, here.
  • FCC staff will have the option of returning to their new headquarters beginning December 1, according to industry publications. This is apparently a voluntary return – with a full return by FCC staff not likely until sometime in 2022.  FCC staffers in Washington DC have been required to telework since March 19, 2020.  When they go back to the office, staff will be working for the first time from the FCC’s new building that “opened” in October 2020.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog