This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: June 18, 2022 to June 24, 2022

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.

  • The FCC has released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that, if adopted at the FCC’s July 14, 2022 regular monthly open meeting, would seek comment on whether to update its rules to identify a new publication for determining a television station’s designated market area (“DMA”) for satellite and cable carriage purposes. Current FCC rules direct commercial TV stations to use Nielsen’s annual Station Index Directory and Household Estimates to determine their DMA, and stations rely on these determinations when they seek carriage on cable and satellite systems.  The proposed rule changes would remove references to the now defunct annual Station Index and Household Estimates and instead direct broadcasters to Nielsen’s Local TV Report.
  • The FCC released a Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in which it seeks comment on the state of the Next Generation Television, or ATSC 3.0, transition and on the scheduled sunsets of two rules adopted in 2017. First, the FCC seeks comment on the progress of broadcasters’ voluntary, market-driven deployment of ATSC 3.0 service and the current state of the ATSC 3.0 marketplace. The first rule on which the FCC seeks comment is the scheduled 2023 sunset of the requirement that a Next Gen TV station’s ATSC 1.0 simulcast primary video programming stream be “substantially similar” to its 3.0 primary programming stream. The FCC also seeks comment on the scheduled 2023 sunset of the requirement that a Next Gen TV station comply with the current ATSC A/322 technical standard.  Additionally, the FCC seeks comments on whether the technology for ATSC 3.0 has been made available on fair terms by the patent holders for that required technology.  Comments and reply comments will be due 30 and 60 days, respectively, after publication of the Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register.
  • In an Order released on June 22, 2022, the FCC restores clarifying language that was inadvertently eliminated almost 40 years ago from section 73.3527 of the FCC’s rules. The clarification relates to applicants, permittees, or licensees whose existing or prospective facilities are Class D FM stations or other educational stations that are wholly “instructional” in their programming.  Class D stations are noncommercial stations that operate with 10 watts on commercial channels.  Instructional stations are those used by schools wholly for student instruction or teacher training. This clarification makes clear that Class D and Instructional stations are exempt from the obligation to complete Quarterly Issues Programs Lists.
  • The FCC has released a draft Order and Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which, if adopted at the FCC’s July 14, 2022 open meeting, would update the FCC’s rules to reflect the recent termination of analog operations by LPTV and television translator stations. The Order would (i) delete or revise rules that no longer have any practical effect given the completion of the LPTV/translator digital transition, or that are otherwise obsolete or irrelevant, and (ii) make certain ministerial changes, for example, to delete analog rules that were found in Part 74, and to add definitions and other information previously adopted in prior rulemaking proceedings. The Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would seek comment on updates to rules which reflect the digital transition, current technology, and/or Commission practices.
  • In a Memorandum Opinion and Order, the FCC’s Media Bureau entered into a Consent Decree, which included a $1500 monetary penalty, with a licensee who admitted that it had transferred control of its station to a time broker during the course of a time brokerage agreement. The licensee admitted in FCC filings that there were times when it was unfamiliar with the programming and operations of the station.  FCC rules require that a licensee maintain ultimate control of all aspects of a station’s operations, even if another entity is providing programming and sales services.
  • The FCC announced the winners of the auction of construction permits for 18 new full-power television stations. The highest winning bid was just over $6.4 million for a new station at Grand Forks, ND. Winning bids of over $4 million were received for construction permits authorizing new stations at Freeport, IL; Alexandria, MN; and Flagstaff, AZ.  The full list of winning bids is available here, and the FCC public notice setting out the post-auction proceedings that are required before permits are issued is available here.

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog