CALM Act Waiver Door Re-Opened, But Just A Bit

"Small" TV stations and MVPD operators now have until December 13, 2012 to file streamlined financial hardship waiver requests.

If you’re a “small” TV station or MVPD operator who missed the October deadline for filing for waiver of your obligations under the CALM Act, but you’re still not going to be in compliance with the Act when it takes effect on December 13, 2012  (that's right, the day after tomorrow), DON'T PANIC. Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa has come early this year.

The Commission has announced that it will accept “streamlined financial hardship waiver requests” through December 13, 2012, even though the original deadline was back in October. So if you qualify, you've got two more days to get your request in to the Commission.

Not clear on whether you’re eligible to file such a request, or what you might need to file if you are eligible, or how to file it? You could check out our post from last October, or we can save you the trouble by shamelessly repurposing the relevant portions of that post here, as follows:

Waivers of the CALM Act requirements are available to those who can demonstrate that obtaining the necessary equipment would “result in financial hardship”. The “streamlined” waiver approach – i.e., the approach to which the extension applies – is available only to “small stations and MVPDs”. If you’re a TV station located in TV markets 150-210 or if you have no more than $14 million in annual receipts, you’re a “small” TV station for these purposes. (Note – the CALM Act applies only to full-power stations, not LPTVs; whether it applies to Class A stations is not entirely clear, but we understand that at least some members of the FCC’s staff believe that Class A stations ARE subject to the Act’s requirements). You’re a “small” MVPD system if you had fewer than 15,000 subscribers (as of 12/31/11) and you aren’t affiliated with a larger operator serving more than 10% of all MVPD subscribers.

If you qualify for the “small” station/operator’s waiver, you need submit to the FCC only a certification that (a) you meet the definition of “small” TV/MVPD operation and (b) you need the extra year to “obtain specified equipment in order to avoid the financial hardship that would be imposed” if you had to get the equipment sooner. You must identify or describe the kind of equipment in question, but you don’t need to specify model number.

All waiver requests must be filed through the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), which can be accessed at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/. Each request must reference the CALM Act proceeding and its docket number (MB Docket No. 11-93). Each filing must be “clearly designated” as a “financial hardship” waiver request.

Good news! There is no filing fee required for CALM Act waiver requests.

More good news! Streamlined financial hardship waiver requests may be deemed to have been granted when the request is filed and the requester receives an automatic “acknowledgement of
request,” unless the Media Bureau notifies them of a problem or question concerning the adequacy of the certification. (Helpful tip: the “acknowledgement of request” pops up on your screen as part of the ECFS filing process. The Commission recommends – and we strongly agree – that anyone filing a request should keep a copy of that confirmation.)

The fact that this extension has been announced a mere two days before the extended deadline – and nearly two months after the original deadline – may undercut its utility, but what the heck. There are probably at least a few (maybe more) folks who can take advantage of the FCC’s decision (on its own motion, thank you very much) to re-open the waiver opportunity, even just a tad.

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