FCC’s EEO Policies Subject of Re-examination and Update

help-wanted-ads-1The FCC’s policies with regard to diversity generally have taken center stage over the past few days.  First up, on Friday, April 21, the Commission released a Declaratory Ruling which updated its policy as to whether the use by broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD’s) of only Internet-based recruitment sources provides sufficiently wide dissemination of news about full-time job openings.  In a ruling some might describe as an overdue recognition of reality, the Commission determined that use of non-Internet sources is no longer necessary.  Then, on Monday, April 24, FCC Chairman Pai announced that he intends to establish a new Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment.  The stated mission of the Advisory Committee is to provide recommendations to the FCC with regard to providing opportunities for all Americans to participate in the communications marketplace, without regard to race, creed, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  Both moves were generally praised in the industry.

The Declaratory Ruling represents a significant change in the policy established when the Commission adopted its current EEO rules in 2002.  At that time, the Commission considered the possibility of recruiting applicants for full-time openings through use of the Internet.  It stated that the purpose of the EEO rules is to ensure that all applicants are afforded equal opportunity and non-discrimination, and not just to bring about the proportional representation of certain groups.  In order to achieve that goal, it would be necessary to make sure that all segments of the population heard about job openings, and none were inadvertently excluded just because they did not know to apply.  Accordingly, the FCC’s EEO rules and policies emphasize wide dissemination of recruitment information.

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The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same – UHF Discount Restored

fcc building-1The Commission has acted to restore the UHF discount used to calculate audience reach in connection with determining compliance with television ownership limits.  The national ownership cap currently limits the number of stations one owner may control to those which reach no more than 39 percent of national television households (with reach defined as the number of households in a station’s DMA).  In adding up the number of households reached nationwide by a particular owner’s TV stations, for a station which operates on a UHF channel, half of the households in its DMA are not included in the total count.

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The FCC Announces Two Rules of Interest to NCE Stations

fcc building-1On April 20, 2017, the FCC announced two new developments for NCE stations. First, the FCC stated that it will no longer require the officers and board members of NCE stations to obtain FCC registration numbers (“FRNs”), a process which requires individuals to disclose personal information such as social security numbers. NCE station officers and board members may instead opt to use “special use” FRNs (which do not require disclosing personal information to the Commission) when filing their ownership reports. The Commission will continue to require NCE stations to submit the gender, race, and ethnicity of their officers and board members. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast, Telecom Filing Deadlines

Do you know what FCC filing deadlines are coming up in early May through early June?  We do.  Note our list is not comprehensive, and other proceedings may apply to you.  Please do not hesitate to contact FHH if you have any questions.  Continue Reading

What Happens in Vegas in April…We’ll Tell You About in May

MTC logoRegular readers of our “Memorandum to Clients” publication are an astute and well-read bunch (probably because they read the “MTC”). So we’re guessing that  you are generally aware of our usual publication schedule and plan your lives accordingly.  That’s why we want to get ahead of any potential concern this month by telling you that our May edition will be coming out a few days late.

We are using those few extra days to ensure that the May edition of MTC includes a rundown of what happens at the NAB Show in Las Vegas (running April 22-27), in addition to the usual monthly news and insight you have come to expect.  You should expect to receive your Memo to Clients around the week of May 8.

If any of our readers are going to the NAB Show, look for these FHH attorneys, who will be there as well:

Karyn Ablin
Kevin Goldberg
Frank Jazzo
Scott Johnson
Dan Kirkpatrick
Michelle McClure
Frank Montero
Davina Sashkin
Peter Tannenwald
Kathleen Victory

And remember: always split Aces and Eights and insurance is for suckers…

 

The FCC is Now Granting Program Experimental Licenses (Finally!)

The FCC has always been kind to people who tinker with radio equipment, whether teenagers blowing out their parents’ fuses (that was us) or manufacturers’ research labs (maybe you). Licenses in the Experimental Radio Service allow work with radio transmitters that don’t otherwise meet FCC standards.

The problem with these experimental licenses was that most variations in transmitter characteristics required a new or modified license. They are not expensive and the FCC issues them reasonably fast (at least by federal agency standards), but still, nobody likes the paperwork and the delays.

The FCC put in a fix four years ago, but it has only just now taken effect. Continue Reading

FCC Brings Spectrum Auction to a Close, Sets Repack Transition in Motion

fcc building-1 With the release of the Incentive Auction Closing and Channel Reassignment Public Notice (affectionately known as the “CCR”), the FCC officially draws the spectrum Incentive Auction to a close. The CCR is a must-read for TV broadcasters and wireless carriers alike. It announces broadcast and wireless winning bidders, sets deadlines and timetables for filings, and provides buildout benchmarks relevant to both broadcasters and wireless companies to convert the new 600 MHz band to wireless use.  Of particular interest to FHH broadcast clients is the setting in motion of the Post-Incentive Auction Transition (“Repack”), starting with a 90-day scramble to file construction permit applications and relocation expense reimbursements for repacked stations which ends on July 12, 2017.  LPTV stations also will be impacted by the channel reassignment and will need to prepare for displacements starting this fall.  Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth PLC is ready to guide you through this process – give us a call.

FCC Releases Instructions on Receiving Incentive and Reimbursement Payments after the Incentive Auction Closes

fcc building-1On March 29, 2017, the FCC released a Public Notice providing instructions to full power and Class A television broadcasters and Multi-Channel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs) on receiving incentive and/or reimbursement payments following the closure of the Incentive Auction.  The Public Notice stated that, in order to receive payments, winning bidders in the reverse auction (i.e., broadcasters that successfully bid to relinquish some or all of their spectrum rights) must submit an FCC Form 1875 (Reverse Auction Payments), and broadcasters and MVPDs eligible to receive reimbursement payments from the Television Broadcaster Relocation Fund for costs incurred during the reverse auction and repacking process must submit an FCC Form 1876 (Reimbursement Payments).  While the application processes are similar for Reverse Auction and Reimbursement Payments, payment recipients may receive their disbursements at different times depending on the type of payment for which they are eligible.  In addition, while the Public Notice did not announce a deadline for reimbursement payees to file Form 1876, entities receiving Reverse Auction Payments must file their Form 1875 by no later than 20 days after the FCC releases its public notice closing the auction (currently expected in early to mid-April).

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Pre-1972 Fight with a Twist: Georgia Supreme Court Exempts Internet Streaming from State Record Piracy Statute

(Court also compares Internet Radio to Terrestrial Under State Law)

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A Georgia Supreme Court decision on a narrow issue relating to the use of pre-1972 sound recordings creates an interesting new topic for discussion in this area, even as the holding in this case is itself necessarily limited to Georgia.

The case is iHeartMedia v.Sheridan, et al.  It is the latest in a long line of cases in which owners of copyrights in sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972 have asserted state-law rights in those recordings against broadcasters and internet streaming services. We’ve written about this issue in the context of several cases that have been brought in California, Florida, and New York over the past few years (for the most recent summary of where the biggest cases stand, check out this post from February 17, 2017 about a United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling in favor of SiriusXM). Continue Reading

FCC Modernizes 800 MHz Rules

fcc building-1On March 23, 2017, the FCC enacted an Order to modernize its rules and regulations governing the 800 MHz Cellular Service band in order to encompass modern wideband mobile broadband service technologies such as LTE. The FCC stated that the movement away from the outdated command-and-control regulatory paradigm, originally created for commercial mobile services using narrowband technologies, to a flexible use model for the band would ease administrative burdens, reduce barriers to innovation and investment, and allow mobile broadband providers to provide service to the public more efficiently.

Specifically, the FCC implemented reforms of the 800 MHz Cellular Service band’s rules in the four following areas:

Cellular Power Rules – The FCC adopted new power rules for Cellular services based on power spectral density (PSD) metrics utilized in other spectrum bands for mobile broadband services.  The new PSD limits for Cellular service are as follows: (1) 400 W/MHz ERP in non-rural areas, and 800 W/MHz in rural areas, without a power flux density (PFD) requirement; and (2) higher limits – up to 1000 W/MHz ERP in non-rural areas, and up to 2000 W/MHz ERP in rural areas (Higher PSD Limits). The FCC stated that the new Cellular power rules would enable mobile broadband providers to operate more efficiently in the 800 MHz spectrum without regard to usage of narrow or wideband technology.

Co-Existence with Public Safety Systems – The FCC also adopted safeguards to protect public safety operations from the increased possibility of unacceptable interference as a result of increased usage of wideband technologies by Cellular service providers. These safeguards include: (1) a one-time advance notification requirement for operations at high PSD limits; (2) PFD limit for a seven-year transition period “for Higher PFD limits”.; (3) convening a public forum to improve co-existence in the 800 MHz band; and (4) retaining Part 22’s existing interference resolution rules.  The FCC admitted that usage of PSD and PFD limits are incomplete measures for mitigating interference with public safety systems, and that other measures would be explored in the future.

Consistent Treatment with Other Flexible Use Spectrum – In an effort to streamline administrative burdens and adopt more efficient regulatory compliance obligations for service providers operating in the 800 MHz band, the FCC conformed the band’s technical rules to those used in similar flexible use spectrum including rules related to:  power measurement, out of band emissions, field strength, and discontinuance of operations. The FCC stated that conforming the 800 MHz band’s technical requirements with those of other flexible use spectrum would enable Cellular service providers to be more competitive in deploying new mobile broadband technologies.

Elimination of Unnecessary Rules and Regulatory Burdens – In an effort to spur the transition from legacy to broadband technologies used in the 800 MHz band, the FCC eliminated several rules and regulatory burdens for service providers. First, the FCC eliminated the requirement that providers file a minor modification application for any change to cell site that resulted in a reduction of service area coverage. Second, the FCC repealed the domestic coordination requirement for Cellular service providers deploying devices with a frequency re-use factor of one (e.g., CDMA, and certain LTE deployments). Finally, the FCC deleted certain provisions governing international coordination requirements that were deemed unnecessary or redundant.

Lastly, as part of the March 23rd decision, the FCC also issued a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments on the removal of other Part 22 provisions related to Station inspection requirements, retention of Station authorizations, and EEO complaint reporting. The FCC proposed the elimination of these provisions on the grounds that they were outdated, costly and burdensome, and/or placed Cellular licensees at a disadvantage compared to other wireless services. Interested parties may file comments on the Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (WT Docket No. 12-40) thirty days after publication in the Federal Register, and reply comments are due sixty days after publication.

Should you have any questions regarding this article or the proceeding, please feel to contact Keenan Adamchak.

 

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