License Renewals, ATSC 3.0, Translator Interference, Ownership Rules, and Children’s TV
By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
Questions about regulations from Washington don’t disappear just because you are spending time in Las Vegas, and last week’s NAB Convention brought discussion of many such issues. We’ll write about the discussion of antitrust issues that occurred during several sessions at the Convention in another post. But, today, we will report on news about more imminent actions on other issues pending before the FCC.
In his address to broadcasters at the conference, FCC Chairman Pai announced that the order on resolving translator interference complaints has been written and is now circulating among the Commissioners for review. The order is likely to be adopted at the FCC’s May meeting. We wrote here about the many suggestions on how to resolve complaints from full-power stations about interference from FM translators. While the Chairman did not go into detail on how the matter will be resolved, he did indicate that one proposal was likely to be adopted – that which would allow a translator that is allegedly causing interference to the regularly used signal of a full-power broadcast station to move to any open FM channel to resolve the interference. While that ability to change channels may not resolve all issues, particularly in urban areas where there is little available spectrum, it should be helpful in many other locations.
At another session, FCC Audio Division officials talked about the upcoming license renewal cycle. They announced that the renewal forms will be filed in the FCC’s LMS database, which was first used by radio broadcasters in connection with their Biennial Ownership Reports filed last year. The forms themselves will likely be available for completion on or before May 1 for the June 3 filing deadline for radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Watch for an FCC public notice next week providing more details on the forms and filing requirements. And, in the interim, make sure that your online public file is complete and up-to-date (including the Quarterly Issues Programs lists – which, for the first quarter of 2019, should have been uploaded to the online public file no later than yesterday), as the online file will likely be reviewed by the FCC during the license renewal process. See our articles here and here on these issues.
On the TV side, the FCC said that the forms for filing for ATSC 3.0 facilities should be available shortly, so that applications can be accepted before the end of the quarter. At the conference, a consortium of stations pushing the ATSC 3.0 standard announced that they will be rolling out the new standard in 60 markets early in 2020.
Revisions to the children’s television rules relating to the amount of required educational and informational programming for children are also being considered. However, no time frame for the exact date by which any changes will be adopted was given. See our article here about the FCC’s pending review of the Children’s television rules.
The FCC Commissioners also discussed the current Quadrennial Review of the ownership rules – the proposed changes to the local radio ownership rules were a particular topic of conversation. See our post here on what changes to those rules are being discussed. All three Republican Commissioners made statements that the ownership rules need to reflect current marketplace realities. But it was also pointed out, particularly by the newest FCC Commissioner, Commissioner Starks, that the FCC principles of localism, competition and diversity need to be considered in any analysis of the ownership rules. Deadline for initial comments in the new Quadrennial Review is April 29.
These were but some of the legal issues discussed at the Convention. Clearly, no one wants to gamble on their regulatory future – so pay attention to the FCC decisions on these important upcoming matters.
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.