By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
Editor’s note: On Thursday, August 19 at 1 p.m., the MAB Third Thursday webinar will feature David Oxenford speaking on “Copyright Issues for Broadcasters.” Register for this webinar here.
While the regulatory deadlines in August may be a bit lighter than other months, there are still several important regulatory dates to keep track of, some of which are detailed below. All broadcasters should have August 11 circled and highlighted on their calendars as the date of the next National EAS Test. And there are renewal and EEO deadlines, as well as several comment dates on FCC regulatory proposals.
After skipping last year’s annual test due to the pandemic, FEMA and the FCC chose August 11 to hold this year’s National EAS Test. All broadcasters should work with their engineers and technical staff to make sure their EAS equipment is operating properly and is set to monitoring the stations that they are required to monitor by their state EAS plan. By the day after the test, August 12, broadcasters must file Form Two in the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) portal with “day of test” information. Then, by September 27, broadcasters must file in ETRS Form Three with detailed post-test data. The information shared with FEMA and the FCC allows them to determine the successes and failures of the test.
Radio stations in California and television stations in Illinois and Wisconsin should be putting the finishing touches on their license renewal applications, ahead of the August 2 filing deadline. These stations must also file with the FCC a Broadcast EEO Program Report (Form 2100, Schedule 396) and, if they are part of a station employment unit (a station or a group of commonly owned stations in the same market that share at least one employee) with 5 or more full-time employees, upload to their public file and post on their station website (if they have one) a link to their Annual EEO Public Inspection File report covering their hiring and employment outreach activities for the twelve months from August 1, 2020 to July 31, 2021. Consult the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS) help center, if you still have questions on navigating the filing portal.
In addition to the stations noted above filing for license renewal, radio stations in Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin and TV stations in California, North Carolina, and South Carolina must, if they are part of a station employment unit with 5 or more full-time employees, upload to their public file and post on their station website (if they have one) a link to their Annual EEO Public Inspection File report covering their hiring and employment outreach activities for August 1, 2020 through July 31, 2021.
By August 2, all television and radio stations that were carried as a “distant signal” by a cable or satellite system during 2020 and that aired a program that the broadcaster produced for which they own the copyright should file a copyright royalty claim form to make a claim to share in the 2020 royalty distribution. For more information about the filing process and to access the electronic filing system, visit the Copyright Office’s site here.
Comments are due by August 3 and reply comments are due by August 13 on a petition filed by Microsoft that asks the FCC to reconsider its rules for television distributed transmission systems (DTS). Microsoft claims that DTS worsens an already-difficult environment for deployment of TV white space devices and that the current rules already provide a bright-line boundary for DTS spillover that addresses most TV stations looking to use DTS transmitters. Broadcasters see DTS as important as the system is designed to give broadcast TV stations more uniform signals throughout their service areas, which is seen as important as many stations convert to the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard. For more on the rules and their importance to broadcasters, see our blog article here. For more details on the petition, read it in full here.
At the FCC’s next required open meeting on August 5, the Commissioners will vote on opening a rulemaking that proposes two minor clarifications to the political broadcasting rules. The first proposal would formally add social media use and creation of a campaign website to the factors to consider when determining if a write-in candidate has made a “substantial showing” of a bona fide campaign for office, so that the candidate can be considered a “legally qualified candidate.” Legally qualified candidates, even write-ins who have made this substantial showing, are entitled to all the protections and benefits of the FCC’s political rules, including equal opportunities, lowest unit rates and, for candidates for federal office, reasonable access to buy advertising time on commercial broadcast stations. The second proposal would update the political file recordkeeping rules to require that stations upload to their political files any request for advertising time that “communicates a message relating to any political matter of national importance” (i.e., federal issue ads) – a requirement that was imposed by statute almost two decades ago and is common practice for broadcast stations but was never reflected in FCC rules. Read the draft proposals, here, and our longer take on the proposals, here. Stream the meeting on August 5 to see if the Commissioners approve the item (the stream is available at fcc.gov/live).
Comments are due by August 9 on wireless microphone company Shure’s petition asking the FCC to reconsider its 2020 decision to expand white space device use in portions of the TV band (channels 2-35). Shure says that the expansion of white space device use will limit opportunities for wireless microphones and suggests that the relaxed rules on these white space devices should apply only in rural areas with less spectrum congestion. Reply comments are due by August 19. Read the petition, here.
Parties interested in submitting comments in the FCC’s 2018 Quadrennial Review media ownership proceeding have an extra month to write and file their comments. Comments, which were originally due by August 2, will now be due by September 2. Reply comments will be due by October 1. The FCC wants commenters to refresh the record and submit information on the state of the media marketplace, as two years have past since the FCC last accepted comments in this proceeding. We wrote about the request for comments, here.
Watch for a resolution of the controversy over annual regulatory fees and whether broadcasters will need to pay higher fees this year, as proposed by the FCC but opposed by the NAB. That decision is likely to be released by the end of August as the FCC will collect those fees on dates to be set in September (2020 regulatory fees were due by September 28). Fees must be paid before the federal government’s fiscal year begins on October 1.
Keep in touch with your station’s legal and technical advisors throughout the month on specific dates and deadlines applicable to your operations and watch the FCC’s website, this blog, industry trade publications and other industry news sources for ongoing developments.
David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).
There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.