This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: October 15, 2022 to October 21, 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.

  • On October 17, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced the Identifying Propaganda on Our Airwaves (IPA) Act, which would essentially undo the recent D.C. Circuit decision in National Association of Broadcasters v. FCC, which rejected the requirement that broadcast licensees independently check two federal databases to verify whether an airtime lessee is a “foreign governmental entity” (see our Broadcast Law Blog article on the Court’s decision here).   Specifically, the IPA Act would amend Section 317(c) of the Communications Act to provide the FCC with authority to require radio station licensees to consult “any additional source of information the Commission designates that may enable the licensee to verify whether the matter broadcast by the radio station was paid for or furnished by a foreign governmental entity.”   FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Commissioner Starks both issued statements in support of the IPA,
  • The FCC’s Media Bureau issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a proposed allotment of a new FM channel, 272A, to Dennison, Ohio as that community’s first local radio service.  Comments are due December 8 and reply comments are due December 23.  If adopted, the channel would be available in a future FM auction for those interested in the construction of a new FM station to serve Dennison.
  • In addition, the Media Bureau granted an AM station a short-term renewal of two years and proposed to issue the station a $20,000 fine for operating at variance with its authorized parameters.  Specifically, the Bureau found that in 1993 the station obtained Special Temporary Authority (STA) to decrease nighttime power from 5 kW (directional) to 1 kW (non-directional).  The station filed for and received multiple extensions of its STA, but, after it received its last extension in 1996, the Bureau warned that the station must either return to its licensed operation or file an FCC 301 application to modify its facilities.  The station nonetheless continued to operate at reduced nighttime power (which it had been doing for its entire license term) and never filed an FCC Form 301, nor did it seek a further extension of its STA until September 7, 2022.
    •  In a similar vein, the Bureau issued a two-year renewal to a daytime-only AM station and proposed to impose an $11,000 fine on a station, citing violations including the station (1) failing to obtain FCC authorization to remain silent for four months, (2) operating at variance from its authorized parameters since September 22, 2022 when an STA for reduced-power operations expired without being extended, and (3) failing to file its license renewal application by, as required, February 17, 2021 following a prior short-term renewal for inconsistent operations of the station in the prior license term.  The Bureau did, however, choose not to fine the station for its unauthorized operation after its license expired, citing mitigating factors that may have led the station to become confused as to its renewal deadline as the current licensee acquired the station after the imposition of the short-term renewal and was not notified by the FCC of the need to file that early renewal.  These two cases remind licensees to keep the FCC informed in changes in station operation and to seek approval when that operation does not conform to what is authorized by the station’s FCC license.
  • The FCC issued notices to several landowners (here and here) that there appeared to be illegal “pirate” radio operations going on from their properties, and warned that if these operations did not immediately cease, the FCC could fine the operator or the landowner as much as $2,149,551 (the inflation adjusted maximum fine authorized by the 2020 Pirate Act, which also authorized fines against landowners as well as pirate operators, legislation we wrote about here).

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog