Online Public Inspection Files: A Refresher Webinar

Photo by GotCredit using the Creative Commons License

While 2017 isn’t even close to being over yet, we’re already looking ahead at next year’s deadlines. TV stations and a large first batch of commercial radio stations have already had to move their public inspection files online. But starting on March 1st of 2018, noncommercial radio stations, as well as the remaining commercial that were exempt from last year’s deadline will now have to go online with their public files. To help stations successfully navigate the process, we’ll be hosting a FREE webinar.

Presented in partnership with the Colorado Broadcasters Association, our own Steve Lovelady and Frank Montero will be hosting a FREE one hour webinar on October 12 at 12 p.m. EDT entitled “Online Public Inspection Files: A Refresher Webinar.”

The webinar will address these questions and many more:

  • When does my station’s public file have to go online?
  • Does this apply to noncommercial stations?
  • How do I move my public file on line and what goes into the public file?
  • How will this impact my FCC license renewal that’s due in the next few years?
  • What will happen if I blow this off and go to fishing instead?
  • And for those special few (you know who you are…..), what exactly is a public file?

All of this, and more, will be covered in this webinar where attendees will be able to ask questions of Professors Lovelady and Montero. For those unable to join us, we will be recording the webinar which will be made available on our website shortly after.

Whether you’re new to the online public file game or a battle-hardened veteran, this webinar will help you with the tools to stay ahead of the curve.

Free registration for the webinar is available here.

Tech Advisors to Assist FCC in Faster Approvals for New Devices

Photo courtesy of the Creative Commons License via jeanbaptisteparis from Flickr.

The FCC’s Technological Advisory Council (TAC) has initiated a Technical Inquiry into reforming the FCC’s technical regulations. Comprised of very smart industry engineers, academics, and other technological leaders who provide technical advice to the FCC, the TAC aims to provide useful guidance to the FCC on its technical rules and the status of emerging technologies. The issue it aims to address in the Technical Inquiry is the FCC’s constant struggle with the question of how to provide for fast regulatory approvals of new technologies, while still meeting its statutory obligation to protect the public interest, including the well-being of consumers and the efficient use of spectrum.

The Technical Inquiry is focused on obtaining feedback about technical rules that are obsolete or in need of updates or consolidation, and necessary changes to better reflect the current needs of the industry. It seeks general comment on how the FCC’s regulatory process “can be made more efficient and timely,” and poses specific questions on whether a mediation-type process could be created to more quickly address conflicts between parties. It also raises questions about how the FCC can better handle a growing issue of how to deal with the frequent changes in technical specifications made by private standards setting bodies. Many FCC technical rules specify compliance with particular industry standards, which often are updated soon after the FCC has adopted a rule specifying that standard, leaving the FCC rule “outdated” in that it requires compliance with an outdated standard.

The TAC is a federal advisory committee, which means that its work is only advisory in nature and the FCC does not need to accept its recommendations. But in this instance, the FCC, especially in recent years, has worked very closely with the TAC; both to set its agenda of issues to study, based on the areas where the FCC requires industry input, and to implement many of the TAC’s ideas and suggestions.

We here at CommLawBlog are hopeful that this latest initiative will generate good ideas that truly will speed up regulatory approvals of new technologies.

Comments are due Oct. 31, 2017 in Docket No. 17-215.

FCC Media Bureau Postpones Filing Deadline for Biennial Ownership Reports

The FCC on Sept. 1 postponed the due date for the submission of 2017 biennial broadcast ownership reports to the FCC until March 2, 2018. Biennial ownership reports are required to be filed every two years by all commercial and (starting this year) noncommercial AM, FM, TV, Class A, and LPTV stations and entities holding attributable ownership interests in those stations. This year’s reports had initially been due to be filed by Dec. 1, 2017, which is now the date on which the filing window for those reports will open, instead of closing.  The reports now due on March 2, 2018 include FCC Forms 323 and 323-E, which will now need to be filed in the Licensing and Management System (LMS). Despite the delay in the filing window, these biennial ownership reports must still describe stations’ ownership as it existed on Oct. 1, 2017.

The start of the filing window was postponed, according to the FCC, “… to provide sufficient time to properly implement the electronic versions of the revised Forms 323 and 323-E in the Licensing and Management System (LMS)” and to work around upcoming holidays. The extended window the FCC says will “ensure that filers have sufficient time to complete and submit their reports.”

While that remains to be seen, at the least, the delay may give many filers reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving, as they now will not need to spend that holiday weekend preparing ownership reports.

Hello from the Other Side, I Must Have Called 21 Million Times… : To Tackle Robocalls From Illegally Spoofed Numbers, FCC Proposes Whopping $82M Fine

Photo credit to James Baker (https://bestreviewsbase.com/), using the Creative Commons Licence

Earlier this month, in its war against illegal robocalling campaigns the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed another hefty fine. That is, a fine of 82 million dollars. Yikes!

The target of the FCC’s wrath? Mr. Philip Roesel, who wasn’t just calling a la Adele style.

Instead, Mr. Roesel is accused of both illegal robocalling in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) (for a refresher on the TCPA and robocalls, take a look here) and illegal spoofing, which the FCC claims violated the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 (TCIA). For his 21 million illegal robocalls, Mr. Roesel received merely a sternly worded citation from the FCC (more on why later). Following a recent trend, the FCC’s massive $82 million fine proposed against Roesel relied primarily on the TCIA’s prohibition against the transmission of misleading or inaccurate caller ID information, commonly referred to as spoofing, “with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value.”

(Sidenote: The “intent” here is important under the TCIA, as not all manipulation of caller ID information is necessarily illegal. For example, the FCC allows telemarketers to transmit caller ID information that corresponds to the actual seller of the goods rather than the telemarketing company that has been hired to place the calls. Telemarketing companies often market goods or services for multiple clients, and different callback numbers could be transmitted depending on whose products or services the telemarketer is selling at that particular time. In these situations, assuming the telemarketing calls themselves are legit, the telemarketer’s manipulation of caller ID information would not necessarily violate the TCIA.)

According to the FCC, Roesel spoofed telephone numbers that weren’t even in service, rather than transmitting an actual number for himself or his company, to place millions of robocalls that particularly targeted the elderly, the infirm, and low-income families for purposes of selling dubious insurance products. The volume of the calls, the intent to aim his campaign at “unsophisticated consumers and consumers in precarious financial situations,” and the violation of the TCIA prompted the FCC to propose the large fine.

What’s unique about this proposed fine is two-fold.

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Approaching FCC Broadcast and Telecom Filing Deadlines

Time to mark your calendars for FCC filing deadlines for broadcasting and telecommunications. Find our list of upcoming deadlines in the industry below.

Note our list is not comprehensive. Other proceedings may apply to you. Please do not hesitate to contact FHH if you have any questions. 

September 1, 2017:

Local Telephone Competition and Broadband Report – Facilities-based providers of broadband services to end-users must report certain broadband deployment data on FCC Form 477.

September ??, 2017:

Annual Regulatory Fees  On a date not yet determined but certainly before September 30, 2017, annual regulatory fees will be due.  These will be due and payable for most FCC licensees and other regulates for Fiscal Year 2017The fees must be paid through the FCC’s online Fee Filer, and once again this year, the FCC will not accept checks as payment of the fees but will require some form of electronic payment (credit card, ACH transfer, wire transfer, and the like).  Please keep in mind that timely payment is critical, as late payment results in a 25 percent penalty, plus potential additional interest charges. We will update you when the finalized due date is announced.

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FCC Activates Disaster Information Reporting System Ahead of Hurricane Harvey

Even if you are not living in the direct path, you are likely aware that many areas in Louisiana and Texas are preparing for Hurricane Harvey.  As local citizens prepare for a Class 3 Hurricane expected to bring dangerous flooding, wind and rain, broadcasters and other communications providers in that region will also need make certain filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

Due to the Harvey’s approach, the FCC has activated the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). It has asked broadcasters, cable operators, and wireless and wireline telecommunications (including VoIP) providers in areas affected by the storm in Texas and in Louisiana to submit and update information through DIRS regarding the status of their communications equipment, restoration efforts, and power situation (for instance, power failure backup systems). Providers who haven’t previously submitted to the DIRS must provide contact information and obtain a User ID to access DIRS.

DIRS reports are requested beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26 and every day after that by 10:00 a.m. until the DIRS is deactivated.

Additional information can be found at https://www.fcc.gov/harvey.  Reach out to us if you have any questions on submitting reports to the DIRS, or other disaster related issues.

But most important of all: please stay safe as you continue to provide much-needed public safety updates to your communities!

Now Available: Archived Must-Carry/Retransmission Consent Webinar

With the October 1 deadline looming, FHH’s Dan Kirkpatrick and Paul Feldman held a webinar to help industry leaders navigate the waters regarding must-carry/retransmission consent.

If you missed the webinar, or just want a refresher, never fear: you can catch it in re-runs.

We’ve posted a recording of the show here – all audio and slides included. We have also posted a PDF copy of the slides from the webinar here.  Both are free.

Highlights from the webinar include:

  • the must-carry/retransmission consent election process
  • issues faced by television stations and MVPDs in the enforcement of must-carry rights, and
  • negotiation of retransmission consent agreements,

If you have any specific questions about the issues discussed in the webinar, please feel free to contact Dan at kirkpatrick@fhhlaw.com or Paul at feldman@fhhlaw.com

Last of Citizens Broadband Radio Service Rules Become Final

The FCC’s rules for Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) have become final, after many years in the works.

No, it’s not your grandfather’s “Ten-four, good buddy” citizens band, but a high-end, super-Wi-Fi-type service that someday will serve your portable devices with fast digital signals.

But don’t run down to Best Buy quite yet.

The engineers are still working out the kinks. Under development is a so-called Spectrum Access System that will automatically assign frequencies among three priorities of users: incumbents entitled to interference protection; those who pay at auction for priority access; and the rest of us.

Getting all this to work right is a major technical challenge.

If you have any questions, give us a call.

Reminder: FREE Must-Carry/Retransmission Consent Webinar Tuesday, August 22

This is a reminder that on Tuesday, August 22 from 2:00-3:15 p.m. (EDT), FHH carriage gurus Dan Kirkpatrick and Paul Feldman will present a FREE webinar entitled “Must-Carry and Retransmission Consent 2017.”

Free registration for the webinar is available here.

The industry faces an October 1, 2017 deadline requiring all full-power television stations to make elections between must-carry and retransmission consent for the next three-year period.

To help stations (and MVPDs) prepare for this deadline, the webinar will focus on a number of issues surrounding the election process, enforcement of must-carry rights, and negotiation of retransmission consent agreements.  The session will explain the rights and obligations of broadcasters and cable and satellite operators under the FCC’s rules, what has changed since the last round of must-carry/retransmission consent elections, potential pitfalls and hidden concerns regarding carriage, and what the future of carriage and program distribution may involve.

We will address the following questions, along with many others:

  • What should you consider before electing must-carry or retransmission consent?
  • What has changed in the three years since elections were last made?
  • What issues typically arise in retransmission consent negotiations?
  • What are the FCC’s “good faith” negotiation rules?
  • What changes may be coming to the program carriage marketplace that could affect retransmission consent negotiations?

Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions during the presentation.  Whether you are seeking must-carry rights to ensure that your station’s programming is seen by all viewers or a retransmission consent agreement to provide a vital revenue stream, this webcast will be must-see viewing for all TV broadcasters given the stakes involved and the complicated relations between cable and satellite companies, broadcasters, and program suppliers.

ETRS Form 1 Due August 28 for all EAS Participants; Requires Registration in FCC CORES System

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the FCC have announced that a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) will take place on September 27, 2017, at 2:20 PM EDT.  As a precursor to this test, all EAS Participants (which includes most broadcast stations and cable and DBS operators) must file a “Form 1” in the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) no later than August 28.  The Form 1 provides details on the participant’s location, service area, EAS equipment, and contact information.  In addition to the Form 1, each EAS participant must file a “day-of-test” ETRS Form 2 on September 27, and a post-test ETRS Form 3 no later than November 13, 2017. Continue Reading

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