FCC Proposes Ten Application Limit for New NCE Stations in 2021 Filing Window

In correspondence with members of Congress, Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Chairman Ajit Pai had signaled that an application filing window for new Noncommercial Educational (“NCE”) stations would be opening sometime fairly soon. In a Public Notice (“PN”) released October 19, the FCC confirmed that a filing window will be coming. The specific dates of the window will be announced in a subsequent PN from the Media Bureau. Continue Reading

The Upcoming FCC Noncommercial FM and LPFM Filing Windows: What You Need to Know

FCC Chairman Pai recently announced that for the first time in a decade, the FCC will in the near future accept applications for full-power noncommercial radio stations across the nation. This filing window is expected to be followed by a filing window for new low-power FM (LPFM) stations. What’s involved in filing an application with the FCC? What do you need to know to be prepared? How can you get organized now for this rare opportunity? Noncommercial educational licenses are an important part of the U.S. media ecosystem. The rules governing such stations, who is eligible, the required documentation involved, and how the FCC handles multiple mutually exclusive applications can be difficult to follow. Continue Reading

Now Available: Broadcasting During Times of Emergency

Yesterday, Fletcher Heald attorneys Frank Montero and Davina Sashkin with Pat Roberts of  the Florida Association of Broadcasters (“FAB”), and their special guests Lisa Fowlkes and Christina Clearwater of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, and Craig Fugate, former FEMA Administrator and founder of Fugate Consulting, presented a webinar in consultation with the FAB entitled “Broadcasting During Times of Emergency”. They addressed topics ranging from FCC EAS requirements,  IPAWS, hurricanes, COVID-19, and DHS and FCC assistance for broadcasters.

If you didn’t catch the webinar live you may watch the full video recording of the webinar on YouTube.

Now, more than ever, broadcasters must be aware of their vital role in mitigating disaster and the resources that Federal and state governments have to offer.

FCC Adopts STIR/SHAKEN Rules to Combat Illegal Robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission recently released a Report and Order (“Order”) to promote the use of the STIR/SHAKEN framework (which we wrote a useful primer on) in combatting caller ID spoofing. The FCC is giving carriers until June 30, 2021 to implement STIR/SHAKEN. However, if a carrier wants to receive exemption from the Caller ID Requirements they must file by December 1, 2020.

Exemption requests must be filed in the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), be signed by an officer of the company, and contain detailed support regarding the assertions in the certification. Voice service providers that receive an exemption will also need to file a second certification regarding whether they achieved the implementation goal they committed to (as required by the initial exemption certification).

Gaming Out the Supreme Court’s Media Ownership Review

As we reported last week, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) and the National Association of Broadcasters (“NAB”) of a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that overturned a 2017 decision by the FCC attempting to relax its media ownership rules. After almost twenty years, is it possible that this may finally bring an end to the Third Circuit’s hold on media ownership? It seems possible, although, in this proceeding, the years have taught us not to expect too much. Continue Reading

Final Deadlines Established for FCC Repack Reimbursement

Attention all repacked television broadcast stations (and eligible LPTV and FM stations): the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) has established final deadlines for submission of all reimbursement expenses invoices and documentation. The Commission also reminds stations to finish up and close-out, or money might be left on the table. Continue Reading

US Supreme Court to Review FCC Media Ownership Rules

Today the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the appeal issue of the Third Circuit’s reversal of the Federal Communication Commission’s (“FCC”) relaxed media ownership rules.  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia last year again rejected the FCC’s most recent efforts to relax the media ownership rules which sought to eliminate a ban on cross-ownership of  newspapers. The FCC had also voted to make it easier to own additional TV stations in the same market, for joint sales agreements, and to own additional radio stations in some markets. The Third Circuit found that the FCC, “did not adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule changes will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities.”

While this decision will clearly have a significant impact on the FCC’s ownership rules, the legal issues involved made those impacts somewhat difficult to predict.  The potential outcome may also be greatly impacted by the outcome of this November’s elections, changes to the Supreme Court, and changes among the FCC’s Commissioners.  We are working through some of those issues and will have a more detailed analysis soon.

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for October – December

Broadcast Deadlines:

October 1, 2020

Must-Carry/Retransmission Consent Election Deadline – By October 1, all full power and Class A commercial TV stations must upload their must-carry/retransmission consent elections for the 2021-2023 election cycle to their online public inspection files.  Stations are now required to send copies of their elections to MVPDs and to the FCC (ElectionNotices@fcc.gov) only if they are changing the election they made for the previous term (e.g., from must-carry to retransmission consent or vice versa).  Stations now need only upload a copy of their election to their public file.  Separate elections for each MVPD are also no longer required. One blanket election for all MVPDs is sufficient, provided the station is making the same election for all such MVPDs. If a station elects retransmission consent on some systems and must-carry on others, it must upload separate notices or specify in its notice which election applies to which MVPDs and systems. Continue Reading

Spectrum Scarcity? What Spectrum Scarcity?

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) under Chairman Pai has been nothing if not relentless in its quest to seek out underused or vacant spectrum and repurpose it for 5G uses. To that end, the FCC has announced its tentative agenda for its September 30, 2020 open meeting and it includes some pre-holiday gifts for spectrum-hungry carriers. By two Report and Orders/Further Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) the FCC is planning to make 150 MHz of prime mid-band spectrum available for commercial use.   Having already reallocated the low hanging spectrum fruit which was free of incumbent users, the FCC is now increasingly having to look at evicting current users who are not making sufficient use of the spectrum to justify their incumbent status. Continue Reading

RMLC and SESAC Strike New Music License Agreement; Filing Due Sept. 23

The uncertainty regarding the rates that commercial radio broadcasters will pay to play music in the repertory of SESAC, Inc. (SESAC) is over. Following extensive negotiations, the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) and SESAC reached a new agreement extending the rates and terms of their existing music license agreement for commercial radio stations. That comes as welcome news for the radio industry, as the current rates were the result of a heavily litigated arbitration process and reflected a significant reduction of the rates that SESAC previously had demanded that radio broadcasters pay for its catalog. Continue Reading