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 FCC announced that regulatory fees must be submitted by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on September 28. In addition, the Media Bureau’s guide to fee filing for broadcasters was released and is available here (the Bureau also separately issued a listing of TV stations by call sign, identifying their population count and fee amount). Note that the FCC’s fee look-up database for radio does not reflect the exempt status of some noncommercial stations – particularly those that do not operate in the reserved FM band. Noncommercial licensees with stations that do not show their exempt status should discuss with their FCC counsel how to correct that information to properly reflect their exempt status. There are significant penalties for late payment, so it is a good idea to file before the September 28 deadline to avoid any last-minute issues that, if they result in a fee being late, can result in a 25% late fee penalty.
- The FCC has released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), available here, proposing to update the FCC’s rules for full power TV and Class A TV stations. The draft NPRM, which is tentatively on the FCC’s agenda for the September 29, 2022 monthly open meeting, indicates that a review and update of these rules is necessary due to the digital transition, the incentive auction repack, current technology, and changes in Commission practices. Assuming the FCC adopts the NPRM as scheduled, it will seek comment on, among other things, whether to eliminate rules that relate to analog operating requirements, and to similarly eliminate language in rules to remove references to digital television or DTV service; whether to delete outdated rules that are no longer valid given changes in Commission-adopted policy, such as the elimination of the comparative hearing process to award and renew broadcast licenses; and whether to make other updates to the Commission’s rules. Comment dates will be announced when the final version of the NPRM is released (probably on or shortly after September 29).
- FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel has circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to bolster the security of the nation’s public alert and warning systems, the Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (“WEA”). If adopted by a vote of the full Commission, the NPRM would seek comment on, among other things, ways to improve the operational readiness of the EAS, including the amount of time that broadcasters, cable providers, and other EAS participants may operate before repairing defective EAS equipment; requiring EAS participants to report compromises of their EAS equipment; and requiring EAS participants to employ sufficient security measures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their respective alerting systems and to annually certify to having a cybersecurity risk management plan in place.
- The decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in NAB v. FCC became effective on September 6, meaning that the requirement that broadcasters check Justice Department and FCC websites to verify the foreign governmental entity status of lessees of their airtime is no longer in effect. The FCC still has the option of petitioning by October 11, 2022 the Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit decision. For more details about this case, see our Broadcast Law Blog here. The requirement that broadcasters receive a verification directly from program suppliers that they are not representatives of foreign governments remains in place. Broadcasters should have written verification by September 15 from all parties buying program time on broadcast stations (or supplying programming for free) certifying that they are not representatives of foreign governments, and that have not been paid by foreign governments to supply their programming to a station.