This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: September 24, 2022 to September 30, 2022

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

  • At its September 29 regular monthly open meeting, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to update the FCC’s technical rules for full power TV and Class A TV stations. The FCC determined that a review and update of these rules is necessary due to the digital transition, the incentive auction repack, current technology, and changes in Commission practices.  The NPRM seeks comment on, among other things, whether to eliminate rules that relate to analog operating requirements, and to similarly eliminate language in rules to remove references to digital television or DTV service (as all TV service is now digital); whether to delete outdated rules that are no longer valid given changes in other Commission-adopted policy, such as the elimination of references to the comparative hearing process to award and renew broadcast licenses which was eliminated by Congressional and FCC action over 25 years ago; and whether to make other updates to the Commission’s rules.  Comments and reply comments will be due 60 days and 75 days, respectively, after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.
  • Also at its September 29 open meeting, the FCC adopted a Report and Order updating its Emergency Alert System, aiming to make alerts delivered over television and radio more informative and easier to understand by the public, particularly people with disabilities. The updated rules require broadcasters, cable systems, and other Emergency Alert System participants to transmit the Internet-based version of alerts when available, rather than transmitting the legacy version of alerts which often contain less information or information of lower quality.  The updated rules will also replace the technical jargon that accompanies certain alerts, including test messages, with plain language terms so that the visual and audio messages are clearer to the public.  The new rules will go into effect 30 days after the Report and Order is published in the Federal Register and provide a transition period for EAS participants to implement some of the required technical changes.
  • The FCC announced a virtual event, the “Video Programming Accessibility Forum – Emergency Information,” to be held on October 6, 2022, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm ET.  The forum will focus on accessibility issues surrounding emergency information in video programming, as well as advancements that may occur in the future.  The Forum will include two panels that will feature speakers representing television companies and consumer groups.  The agenda for the Forum is available here.
  • The Media Bureau issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting the request of an Iowa television station to determine that a Minneapolis television station was no longer “significantly viewed” in a television market that included counties in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.  This order provided a good example of the issues that must be addressed in any petition to change the designation of a station as being significantly viewed.  That designation can be important as significantly viewed stations are not subject to the network nonduplication and syndicated exclusivity rules, meaning that cable systems in a market carrying the significantly viewed station might be duplicating the programming that is also carried by an in-market station.

Our Broadcast Law Blog last week published its monthly look ahead at the regulatory dates of importance to broadcasters coming up in October.  Also on the Blog, we published an article highlighting some of the state regulations that govern political advertising on digital and online platforms and another article looking in more detail at the significant proposed fines issued in the previous week to TV stations for running prohibited “program length commercials” in programming directed to children 12 and under.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog