This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters:  June 12 to June 16, 2023

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.

  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Technology Committee announced that it will hold a hearing on June 22, 2023 on the nomination of Anna Gomez to fill the long-vacant seat on the FCC, as well as on the renominations of Commissioners Carr and Starks.  We wrote about these nominations, and the broadcast issues that a full Commission might tackle, in a recent article on our Broadcast Law Blog. The hearing will also consider the nomination of a new Inspector General for the FCC.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act designed to allow news creators, including broadcasters, to negotiate jointly without antitrust concerns with Big Tech platforms over the rates and terms to be paid by those platforms for use of the news creators’ content.  A summary of the bill is available on Senator Klobuchar’s website.  To become law, the bill still must be passed by the full Senate and the House of Representatives and signed by the President. A similar bill was passed by the Committee last year but died as it was not approved by Congress before the end of the last Congressional term.
  • The FCC’s Media Bureau issued a Public Notice announcing that the Report and Order updating the FCC’s Part 74 rules to reflect the transition of low power television and television translator stations to digital operation will go into effect on June 12.  These rule changes do not materially affect the basic regulatory obligations of LPTV or TV translators now operating with digital facilities. The June 12 effective date does not apply to rules that change paperwork obligations, as these changes must undergo a Paperwork Reduction Act Review and will become effective after the FCC publishes notice of the Office of Management and Budget’s approval of the changes.  The Bureau stated that it would issue a future Public Notice announcing the effective date of the updated rules that require OMB approval. In a previous weekly update, we noted some of the changes adopted in this Order. 
  • The Media Bureau issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order and Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture to a television station in Silver Spring, Maryland, proposing to fine the station $18,000 for allegedly violating the FCC’s public file requirements.  The Bureau’s review of the stations online public inspection file indicated that since the prior renewal of the station’s license, the station had uploaded ten issues/programs lists more than one year late; three issues/programs lists between one month and one year late; and one issues/programs list more than one month late.  The station argued that its failure to upload these required reports was the result of confusion as to the station’s operational responsibilities when it entered a channel sharing agreement after surrendering its former channel in the television incentive auction.  The Bureau rejected this argument as, under a channel-sharing arrangement, each licensee maintains its own individual license and has an independent obligation to comply with all regulatory requirements.
  • The FCC’s Media Bureau entered into a Consent Decree with a Pennsylvania FM broadcast station for failure to file its 2014 and 2022 license renewal applications by their respective deadlines.  In addition, the Consent Decree noted that the station had yet to pay a fine assessed in 2015 for the 2014 late-filed renewal.  Finally, the Bureau said that its review of the station’s online public inspection file revealed that the station had not uploaded a single Quarterly Issues Programs List for the entire current renewal period until November 2022.  The Consent Decree requires the station to pay a civil penalty of $3,000 – which includes the station’s unpaid fine of $1,500.  The fine is to be paid in installments which suggests that the licensee made a financial hardship showing to avoid a more significant fine for the identified violations. The Consent Decree also mandates that the station implement a compliance plan requiring periodic reporting to the FCC so that it can monitor the station’s performance for at least a year.
  • The Media Bureau reversed its prior selection of the tentative selectee from a group of mutually exclusive NCE FM applications for different communities in Texas, and chose an applicant for a new NCE FM station at Riesel, Texas as the new tentative selectee.  The applications had been filed during the FCC’s November 2021 NCE FM filing window.  The Riesel applicant had alleged that the prior tentative selectee should not have been given a preference for its greater coverage as it had misrepresented the fair distribution population figures in its application by excluding two stations from its calculations.  The prior tentative selectee subsequently amended its application to withdraw its claim for a fair distribution preference, leaving the Riesel applicant as the only applicant that had claimed that coverage preference, so it became the new tentative selectee.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog