$40 Million FCC Settlement with T-Mobile for Rural Call Completion Issues Signal of Things to Come

Photo by Osama Saeed

Callers placing long distance calls to rural areas have, at times, experienced difficulties in having their calls go through. This occurs most often in rural areas where the costs incurred by long distance providers have generally been higher than in non-rural areas. In 2012, the FCC issued a declaratory ruling which determined that carriers that knew, or should have known, that calls were not being completed to rural areas (and failed to correct the problem) could be liable for violating Section 201 of the Communications Act. This decision also applied to calls that were being degraded by the carrier (or by intermediate or other entities acting for or employed by the carrier). In 2013, the FCC issued a follow-up order prohibiting carriers from sending an audible ringtone to a calling party to make them believe that a phone call made to a rural area was ringing at the receiving end, when the call had not actually gone through.

Fast forward to 2016 when FCC began receiving complaints from three rural telephone companies in Wisconsin that T-Mobile customers could not complete calls to customers served by those rural phone companies. Many complaints reported that callers heard ringtones on calls that failed to reach rural customers. T-Mobile investigated the complaints and reported to the FCC that the connection problems were due to the involvement of an intermediate carrier and that all the complaints had been resolved. However, T-Mobile did not address the ringtone issue raised by some of the complaints.

After T-Mobile’s response, the FCC received several additional complaints regarding call completion and ringtone issues. As a result, the FCC issued a letter of inquiry (LOI) to investigate the matter further. In response to the LOI and a supplemental LOI, T-Mobile reported that in 2007 it began using servers that included a “Local Ring Back Tone” (LRBT) for calls from customers that took more than a predetermined amount of time to complete. T‑Mobile further reported that in 2013, as it migrated to different servers, T-Mobile began using its LRBT protocol only for the out-of-network calls from its customers that were routed via Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks. However, T‑Mobile apparently continued using LRBT even on calls that failed to reach rural customers after the FCC rules that prohibited the practice went into effect. The FCC determined that T-Mobile’s use of LRBT likely caused callers to receive false ringtones for hundreds of millions of calls each year.

In order to end the FCC’s investigation into T-Mobile’s alleged violation of rural call completion and ringtone rules, T-Mobile entered into a consent decree to pay a $40 million civil penalty and to undertake other measures to ensure compliance with the FCC’s rural call completion and ringtone rules. A full copy of the consent decree can be found here. Clearly, the FCC takes the rural call completion and LRBT issue very seriously.

In addition to its willingness to take enforcement actions, the FCC on Tuesday, April 17 voted to adopt new requirements and proposed more rule changes to continue to address rural completion issues. Under the new requirements, carriers must, among other things, monitor the performance of the intermediate providers to which they are connected and take steps to correct any performance issues related to call completion when necessary. While the final text of the FCC’s April 17 call completion action has yet to be released (check back here for more info when it is), carriers would be prudent to start making plans to review their procedures and intermediate carrier relationships to address potential rural call completion issues.

If you have any questions please call us at (703) 812-0400.

Wrong Number! D.C. Circuit Rules on Challenges to the FCC’s 2015 TCPA Order Part IV: What’s Next – New FCC Rulemakings and Impact on Litigation

Robocalls – everyone has strong feelings about them. In many cases they serve a useful function, but they are often unwanted and/or fraudulent, and they are the largest source of consumer complaints to the FCC. In response, the FCC in 2015 issued a Declaratory Ruling and Order intended to broaden the number of calls subject to the FCC’s enforcement powers under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). On appeal, though, the D.C. Circuit recently reversed the FCC’s controversially broad definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS or autodialers) and its one-call safe harbor for calls made to numbers have been reassigned to a new subscriber. On the other hand, the court upheld the FCC’s 2015 holding that callers may revoke their consent to calls in any reasonable manner. The ATDS and safe harbor issues were remanded back to the FCC, which will likely address the issues in new rulemaking proceedings, including a proceeding opened on March 22rd seeking comments on ways to address the problem of unwanted calls to reassigned numbers. It is not clear at this time what the impact of all of this will be on pending and future TCPA litigation.

In our four-part series, we broke down the controversy over the definition of “autodialer,” the means by which consumers can revoke their consent to be called, the issue of consent for calls to telephone numbers that have been reassigned to new subscribers, the FCC’s new proceeding on using databases to minimize the impact of reassigned numbers, and where this TCPA litigation goes from here.

Below is part four of our series. Catch up on parts one, two, and three here.

4. What’s Next – New FCC Rulemakings and the Impact on Litigation

So, where do things go from here? We expect the FCC to initiate rulemaking proceedings to address the issues the court remanded: the definition of “autodialer” and the reassignment of numbers. In the 2015 Order, then-Commissioner (now Chairman) Ajit Pai expressed his disdain for unwanted telemarketing calls, but objected strongly to the FCC’s overly-broad definition, asserting that it will substantially increase litigation against parties acting in good-faith. Now, he has a chance to shape the discussion on remand.

Regarding TCPA compliance where numbers have been reassigned, on March 22nd the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments on the use of databases to reduce the problem. In that Notice, the FCC:

  • Proposes to ensure that one or more databases are available to provide callers with the comprehensive and timely information they need to avoid calling reassigned numbers;
  • Seeks comment on the information that callers who choose to use a reassigned numbers database need to avoid calling a reassigned number. Notably, the NPRM seeks to minimize the consumer information provided to the database (to protect consumer privacy associated with that information) while maximizing the effectiveness of the database to protect consumer privacy interests in not receiving unwanted calls;
  • Seeks feedback on three alternative ideas for service providers to report that information: 1) requiring service providers to report reassigned number information to a single, FCC-designated database; 2) requiring service providers to report that information to one or more commercial data aggregators; or 3) allowing service providers to report that information to commercial data aggregators on a voluntary basis; and
  • Seeks comment on whether andhow the Commission should adopt a safe harbor from liability under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for those callers that choose to use a reassigned numbers database. What sort of liability would such a safe harbor protect callers from:  calling any reassigned number or from calls where the database information was inaccurate?

It is unclear what immediate impact, if any, all of this will have on TCPA litigation. Many courts had stayed pending litigation in anticipation of the D.C. Circuit’s rulings. Now that core issues have been remanded back to the FCC, different courts may take different approaches to the status of pending cases. For companies seeking to remain in compliance with TCPA, the initiation of new rulemakings on key issues will create on-going regulatory risks. But, there is no uncertainty over the requirement that callers obtain prior express written consent for autodialed calls to wireless numbers, so companies should certainly make sure that they continue to have such consent.

We will follow the TCPA rulemakings at CommLawBlog, but if you have questions about TCPA compliance, please call us at (703) 812-0400 or visit us at www.fhhlaw.com.

Comments on FCC Proposed EEO Form 397 Elimination due by April 30; Reply Comments Due May 15

In March 2018, the FCC proposed eliminating the Equal Employment Opportunity Mid-Term Report (also known as Form 397) and now those wishing to voice their opinions can do so until April 30. As we’ve discussed before, this is part of the FCC’s ongoing Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative (spearheaded by Chairman Pai). Currently, Form 397 is intended to provide the FCC with information about a broadcast station’s employment practices at the midpoint of the station’s eight-year license term. The form consists of a very brief cover portion and attachment of the station’s last two EEO Public File Reports. Form 397 currently must be filed by TV stations with five or more-full-time employees and radio stations with 11 or more full-time employees (smaller station employment units may file the Form to confirm their smaller size but are not required to do so).

The FCC, and those advocating for the elimination of Form 397, argue that it is redundant and is becoming, “unnecessary and unduly burdensome, and most of the information it contains is otherwise available to the Commission.” Organizations such as the National Association of Broadcasters have voiced their support for the elimination of Form 397 with the advent of the Online Public Inspection File. Due to a statutory mandate, the Commission will still be required to conduct a mid-term review of all station employment units that would have been required to file the Form 397. Without the Form 397, however, the Commission recognized that there would no longer be a single place where it could determine which stations were subject to such reviews. Thus, by seeking comment on the proposal, the FCC is also looking to the public on suggested ways they could track this information, such as adding a requirement that this information appear in a station’s annual EEO Public File Report or be entered elsewhere in the online public file.

The proposal was published in the Federal Register this week. Comments can be filed until April 30 with reply comments due by May 15. If you wish to submit a comment and need assistance, contact us at 703-812-0400.

 

FCC Issues Big Fines to Sprint and Mobilitie for Siting Violations

(But Doesn’t Offer Much Explanation as to Details or Guidance for Future Acceptable Action)

On April 10, the FCC released Orders and associated Consent Decrees resolving investigations into alleged violations of the site registration and/or pre-construction environmental review procedures by Sprint and Mobilitie. In the past, the Commission has made it clear that it means business when it comes to enforcing compliance with the often rigorous, expensive, and time-consuming procedures necessary to meet the environmental rules, which include the rules requiring evaluation and avoidance of adverse effects on historical and tribal sites.

The sheer size of the amounts required to settle the investigations, however, was enough to catch our attention: $10 million for Sprint and $1.6 million for Mobilitie. While the Consent Decrees referenced multiple violations of the rules, the number of sites and violations involved was not stated. In the past the FCC has used $7,000 as a base forfeiture amount for violations of this sort; therefore, one might conclude from the size of the settlement amount that there were either 1,400 sites implicated in the Sprint investigation (and over 200 in the Mobilitie one) or that there were egregious circumstances justifying multiplication of the base fine. The Consent Decree is frustratingly silent on this point, which unfortunately leaves the industry – those who might be expected to be warned and alarmed by this action – without a clear sense of how bad the alleged offenses were. We say “alleged offenses” because, while the Commission appeared to find non-compliance, termination of the investigation by settlement does not result in a finding of a violation of the law.

Apart from the size of the settlement amounts, we note two interesting features of these orders. First, the FCC has made it clear that amounts paid pursuant to consent decrees are not tax deductible. This is made explicit on page four in both consent decrees. In years past, parties could argue that these payments were “voluntary payments” (deductible) rather than fines (non-deductible). That ambiguity has been resolved. Second, in the case of Sprint, the decree indicates that compliance with the rules was the responsibility of a third party provider who undertook to build the sites and handle the environmental compliance. Yet, Sprint, one of multiple carriers who were to use the subject sites, was charged with the violation. Mobilitie, on the other hand, was itself the third party provider who constructed the sites and should have handled the environmental reviews; yet Mobilitie, rather than the ultimate carriers, was socked with the violation.

Why the FCC treated the carrier as the responsible party in one case and the site constructor in the other is not made clear by the FCC’s orders or the consent decrees. So, while the FCC certainly intends to signal its seriousness about compliance with the rules, it does not clearly explain which parties are responsible for that compliance.

Wrong Number!  D.C. Circuit Rules on Challenges to the FCC’s 2015 TCPA Order Part III: The Problem of Reassigned Phone Numbers

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

Robocalls – everyone has strong feelings about them. In many cases robocalls, or automated calls and text messages, serve a useful function (and not just for telemarketing). But unfortunately, they are often unwanted and/or fraudulent, and they are the largest source of consumer complaints to the FCC. In response, the FCC in 2015 issued a Declaratory Ruling and Order (“2015 Order”) intended to broaden the number of robocalls subject to the FCC’s enforcement powers under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). (Read our past blog coverage on the FCC’s 2015 Order if you want to brush up on the particulars.) On appeal, though, the D.C. Circuit recently rejected several aspects of the 2015 Order, including the FCC’s controversially broad definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS or autodialers) and its one-call safe harbor for calls made to numbers that have been reassigned to a new subscriber. On the other hand, the court upheld the FCC’s 2015 holding that callers may revoke their consent to calls in any reasonable manner. The ATDS and safe harbor issues were remanded back to the FCC, which will likely address the issues in new rulemaking proceedings, including a proceeding opened on March 23rd seeking comments on ways to address the problem of unwanted calls to reassigned numbers.

In our four-part series, we break down the controversy over the definition of “autodialer,” the means by which consumers can revoke their consent to be called, the issue of consent for calls to telephone numbers that have been reassigned to new subscribers, the FCC’s new proceeding on using databases to minimize the impact of reassigned numbers, and what impact all of this might have on pending and future TCPA litigation.

Below is part three of our series. (Catch up and read part one and part two.)

III.           Calls to Numbers That Have Been Reassigned to New Subscribers

Did you ever call a cell number only to discover that the number is no longer used by the person you intended to call, but rather has been reassigned to someone new? That’s an inconvenience for you, but a potential TCPA violation for a telemarketer or other business trying to contact you through automated means. The problem, from the caller’s perspective, is that there is no public wireless telephone number directory, and individuals may change their phone numbers without notifying the caller to whom it had given consent for calls. This can lead to callers making calls in good faith (i.e., intending to call Ms. X who had given consent to receive calls), but resulting in a TCPA violation (since the called number was reassigned to Mr. Y, who did not consent to receive such calls). Much litigation occurs as a result of this problem.

Again, with the goal of enhancing its TCPA enforcement, the FCC’s 2015 Order held that “the TCPA requires the consent not of the intended recipient of a call, but of the current subscriber (or non-subscriber customary user of the phone)….” The Order clarified, however, that “callers who make calls without knowledge of reassignment and with a reasonable basis to believe that they have valid consent to make the call should be able to initiate one call after reassignment as an additional opportunity to gain actual or constructive knowledge of the reassignment and cease future calls to the new subscriber. If this one additional call does not yield actual knowledge of reassignment, we deem the caller to have constructive knowledge of such.” Thus, in the case of reassignment of a wireless numbers, callers had a one-call “safe harbor” from being subject to liability for TCPA violations (even if that one call did not reveal that the number’s subscriber had changed).

While recognizing that the Commission reasonably chose not to impose strict liability (i.e., violation on the first call even if the caller had reason to think that it was complying with the TCPA) in this context, the Court found the Commission’s one-call safe harbor to be impermissibly arbitrary. Given that in other places in the 2015 Order, the Commission had allowed callers to “reasonably rely” on the consent a subscriber gives to call his number, the Court did not accept that such reasonable reliance is properly limited to only one call when the consenting party’s number has been reassigned, especially since that one call may give no indication of the reassignment. The Court remanded the entire issue of reassigned numbers back to the FCC, and it invited the FCC to find a technological solution.

Stay tuned for the final part in our series, where we’ll discuss the FCC’s next steps and as well as how all of these changes will possibly impact TCPA litigation. If you have questions about TCPA compliance, please call us at (703) 812-0400 or visit us at www.fhhlaw.com.

Wrong Number! D.C. Circuit Rules on Challenges to the FCC’s 2015 TCPA Order Part II: Revocation of Consumer Consent

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash courtesy of the Creative Commons Licence.

Robocalls – everyone has strong feelings about them. In many cases robocalls, or automated calls and text messages, serve a useful function (and not just for telemarketing). But unfortunately, they are often unwanted and/or fraudulent, and they are the largest source of consumer complaints to the FCC. In response, the FCC in 2015 issued a Declaratory Ruling and Order (“2015 Order”) intended to broaden the number of robocalls subject to the FCC’s enforcement powers under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). (Read our past blog coverage on the FCC’s 2015 Order if you want to brush up on the particulars.) On appeal, though, the D.C. Circuit recently rejected several aspects of the 2015 Order, including the FCC’s controversially broad definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS or autodialers) and its one-call safe harbor for calls made to numbers that have been reassigned to a new subscriber. On the other hand, the court upheld the FCC’s 2015 holding that callers may revoke their consent to calls in any reasonable manner. The ATDS and safe harbor issues were remanded back to the FCC, which will likely address the issues in new rulemaking proceedings, including a proceeding opened on March 23 seeking comments on ways to address the problem of unwanted calls to reassigned numbers.

In our four part series, we break down the controversy over the definition of “autodialer,” the means by which consumers can revoke their consent to be called, the issue of consent for calls to telephone numbers that have been reassigned to new subscribers, the FCC’s new proceeding on using databases to minimize the impact of reassigned numbers, and what impact all of this might have on pending and future TCPA litigation.

Below is part two of our series. (If you missed it, go back and read part one here.)

 2. Revocation of Consumer Consent

Say that you have consented to receive telemarketing calls or texts from Business A, but a month later you change your mind. Can you revoke your consent? If so, what does the TCPA require you to do to notify Business A that your consent has been revoked?

The FCC addressed these issues in its 2015 Order. Noting that the TCPA itself was silent on the issue of revoking consent, the FCC chose to allow such revocation, as that would be consistent with the pro-consumer bent of the statute. But given that Business A must be notified of the revocation, how should that be done? Possible means suggested by commenters included: 1) in writing at the mailing address designated by the caller; 2) by email to the email address designated by the caller; 3) by text message sent to the telephone number designated by the caller; or 4) by facsimile to the telephone number designated by the caller.

The FCC Order instead ruled that callers cannot designate the exclusive means by which consumers must revoke consent. Rather, the FCC ruled that consumers “may revoke consent in any manner that clearly expresses a desire not to receive further messages …. Consumers have a right to revoke consent, using any reasonable method including orally or in writing. Consumers generally may revoke, for example, by way of a consumer-initiated call, directly in response to a call initiated or made by a caller, or at an in-store bill payment location, among other possibilities.” Continue Reading

Reply Comments on FCC Incubator Diversity Program Due April 9

On Nov. 20, 2017, the FCC released an Order on Reconsideration of several of its broadcast multiple and cross-ownership rules, which included a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) looking toward increasing minority, female, and small business ownership by establishing an “incubator” program which incentives established broadcasters to help those types of entities. Comments on the NPRM have been filed, but there is an opportunity to file Reply Comments by April 9. The proposed incubator program is intended to “help facilitate entry by new voices into the marketplace by providing access to capital and/or technical expertise to new entrants and small businesses.” The FCC has asked commenters to suggest eligibility criteria and how the agency should structure, design, implement, enforce, and monitor the incubator program.

Chairman Pai has tasked the FCC’s Diversity Advisory Committee to oversee the program. In a speech to the Multicultural Media, Telcom, & Internet Council’s Annual Broadband and Social Justice Summit just last month, Chairman Pai outlined some specifics of the program saying it, “would provide an ownership rule waiver or similar benefit to a company that helps facilitate station ownership for a qualifying entity. For example, in exchange for a defined benefit, an established company could assist a new owner by providing management or technical assistance, loan guarantees, direct financial assistance, training, or business planning assistance.”

Groups such as the National Association of Broadcasters have already voiced their approval of the program in their reply comments, believing that it will “foster new entry into the broadcast industry, particularly by minorities, women, and small businesses.” NAB in early-filed reply comments has recommended creating a standard based on the new entrant bidding that was used during the FCC broadcast auctions. In analyzing publically available FCC data, the NAB was able to look at the new entrant bidding credit for every FM broadcast auction held since the FCC began the adoption of the credit. NAB concluded that bidding credits resulted in 93 percent more winning bids by women owners and 40 percent more winning bids by minority owners in FM auctions since 2004. Thus, the NAB concluded this was an effective means of promotion station ownership diversity.

Meanwhile, other reply comments have been critical of the FCC’s proposed approach. Reply comments filed together by nine organizations (Office of Communication, Inc. of the United Church of Christ, Media Alliance, National Organization for Women Foundation, Communications Workers of America, Common Cause, Benton Foundation, Media Council Hawai`i, Prometheus Radio Project, and Media Mobilizing 2 Project), all of which generally support broadcast diversity, cited past endeavors by the FCC to promote diversity that failed.

UCC et al, say that the FCC has lacked sufficient data to adequately follow through on this type of program and that similar efforts in the 1990s failed, then, “to offer persuasive arguments that eliminate the program’s inherent concerns” and could cause “a substantial loophole in the Commission’s ownership rules without having any significant impact on minority and female ownership.” They go on to, say that the FCC has failed to address these concerns and call into question why the FCC has decided to move forward with a program that these groups say was, in the past, “infeasible.” They take the position that the adoption of an incubator program will do little to promote minority and female ownership and that it will be “futile without strict media ownership limits,” particularly in light of the Commission’s “chronic failure” to gather ownership data in order to evaluate the program’s impact on actually increasing media ownership diversity.

If you have any recommendations to the FCC on how to best implement this incubator program and need help filing a reply comment, feel free to call us at (703) 812-0400. You can file comments via the FCC ECFS webiste here.

 

Wrong Number! D.C. Circuit Rules on Challenges to the FCC’s 2015 TCPA Order Part I: The Debate Over Defining ‘Autodialer’

Photo from freestocks.org courtesy of the Creative Commons License.

Robocalls – everyone has strong feelings about them. In many cases robocalls, or automated calls and text messages, serve a useful function (and not just for telemarketing). But unfortunately, they are often unwanted and/or fraudulent, and they are the largest source of consumer complaints to the FCC. In response, the FCC in 2015 issued a Declaratory Ruling and Order (“2015 Order”) intended to broaden the number of robocalls subject to the FCC’s enforcement powers under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). (Read our past blog coverage on the FCC’s 2015 Order if you want to brush up on the particulars.)

On appeal, though, the D.C. Circuit recently rejected several aspects of the 2015 Order, including the FCC’s controversially broad definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS or autodialers) and its one-call safe harbor for calls made to numbers that have been reassigned to a new subscriber. On the other hand, the court upheld the FCC’s 2015 holding that callers may revoke their consent to calls in any reasonable manner. The ATDS and safe harbor issues were remanded back to the FCC, which will likely address the issues in new rulemaking proceedings, including a proceeding opened on March 23 seeking comments on ways to address the problem of unwanted calls to reassigned numbers.

In our four-part series, we break down the controversy over the definition of “autodialer,” the means by which consumers can revoke their consent to be called, the issue of consent for calls to telephone numbers that have been reassigned to new subscribers, the FCC’s new proceeding on using databases to minimize the impact of reassigned numbers, and what impact all of this might have on pending and future TCPA litigation.

Below is part one.

  1. The Debate Over Defining “Autodialer”

Defining automatic telephone dialing systems is key to a discussion of unwanted marketing calls, not only because they are the source of the term “robocalls,” but because critical portions of the TCPA and the FCC’s implementing rules prohibit use of autodialers to call wireless telephone numbers without the prior express consent of the called party. Callers have accordingly put some efforts into finding ways of using advanced technology while avoiding the use of equipment that meets the definition of autodialer. The TCPA defines the term as “equipment which has the capacity—A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number; and B) to dial such numbers.”

When the Commission considered the definition in its 2015 Order, it had to address the term “capacity”: does that mean the present capacity of the device, or its potential future capacity if modified with additional hardware or software? It chose to define autodialers more broadly as devices with the potential capacity to dial random or sequential numbers, even if that capacity could exist only through modifications to add hardware or software (as long as the modifications were not too theoretical or too attenuated). The FCC recognized concern by commenters (and then Commissioner, now Chairman, Ajit Pai) that its definition was so broad that it swept ordinary smartphones into the category of autodialers, since the capacities of smartphones can be significantly enhanced with additional software. And, including smartphones in the definition of autodialers is impactful, since every unconsented call using a smartphone could be considered a violation of the TCPA, even if the smartphone is not being used in an autodialing mode. But the Commission rejected the concern, noting that there was “no evidence that friends, relatives,” and others have brought TCPA lawsuits over the use of smartphones.

Continue Reading

March 23: The Day that Shared Services Agreements Became Part of the Public File Family

As of March 23, the FCC rule requiring the inclusion in the online public file of TV stations’ “shared services agreements” (SSAs) is now in effect. Under the

Paperwork Reduction Act, the effectiveness of the SSA filing requirement had to wait for approval by the Office of Management and Budget, which has now occurred. This means that any TV station that has executed an SSA prior to the effective date will have to include a copy of their SSA in their online public inspection file within 180 days after the March 23 effective date (by September 19, 2018). Those SSAs that are executed after the effective date will also need to be placed in the station’s online public file “in a timely fashion.” Either way, stations will have to upload their SSAs to a folder entitled, “Shared Service Agreements.”

This was all adopted in the 2016 FCC Ownership Order (which we wrote about here) and upheld on reconsideration in 2017. SSAs allow independently owned stations in local markets across the country to combine forces by sharing operations, staff, and facilities. This definition is broad and includes agreements for sharing any “station-related services.” If you’re unclear about whether your SSA needs to be included in your online public file, contact us at (703) 812-0400.

Upcoming FCC Broadcast Deadlines April 2018 – May 2018

Do you know what FCC filing deadlines are in the coming months? We do. Time to mark up your calendars so you’re not late on these important deadlines. Call FHH if you have trouble meeting these deadlines or need assistance.

April 2, 2018 –

EEO Public File Reports – All radio and television station employment units with five or more full-time employees located in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas must place EEO Public File Reports in their public inspection files. All stations must also upload the reports to the online public file. For all stations with websites, the report must be posted there as well. Per announced FCC policy, the reporting period may end 10 days before the report is due, and the reporting period for the next year will begin on the following day.

EEO Mid-Term Reports – All radio stations with eleven or more full-time employees in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and all television stations with five or more full-time employees in Texas must electronically file a mid-term EEO report on FCC Form 397, with the last two EEO public file reports attached.

April 9, 2018 – Next Generation TV – ATSC 3.0 – Reply Comments are due in response to the Commission’s Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making, which accompanied its November Report and Order authorizing television broadcasters to use the Next Generation television transmission standard (ATSC 3).

April 10, 2018 –

Children’s Television Programming Reports – For all commercial television and Class A television stations, the first quarter 2018 Children’s Television Programming Reports must be filed electronically with the Commission. These reports then should be automatically included in the online public inspection file, but we would recommend checking, as the FCC bases its initial judgments of filing compliance on the contents and dates shown in the online public file. Please note that use of the Licensing and Management System for the Children’s Reports requires the use of the licensee FRN to log in; therefore, you should have the FRN and password handy before you start the process.

Commercial Compliance Certifications – For all commercial television and Class A television stations, a certification of compliance with the limits on commercials during programming for children ages 12 and under, or other evidence to substantiate compliance with those limits, must be uploaded to the online public inspection file.

Website Compliance Information – Television and Class A television station licensees must upload and retain in their online public inspection files records sufficient to substantiate a certification of compliance with the restrictions on display of website addresses during programming directed to children ages 12 and under.

Issues/Programs Lists – For all commercial and noncommercial radio, television, and Class A television stations, a listing of each station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the past quarter must be uploaded to the station’s online public inspection file. The list should include a brief narrative describing the issues covered and the programs which provided the coverage, with information concerning the time, date, duration, and title of each program.

Class A Television Continuing Eligibility Documentation – The Commission requires that all Class A Television maintain in their online public inspection files documentation sufficient to demonstrate that the station is continuing to meet the eligibility requirements of broadcasting at least 18 hours per day and broadcasting an average of at least three hours per week of locally produced programming. While the Commission has given no guidance as to what this documentation must include or when it must be added to the public file, we believe that a quarterly certification stating that the station continues to broadcast at least 18 hours per day, that it broadcasts on average at least three hours per week of locally produced programming, and lists the titles of such locally produced programs should be sufficient.

April 18, 2018 –  National TV Audience Reach Limits – Reply Comments are due in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making which seeks input on whether to modify, retain, or eliminate the national TV multiple ownership rule (or National TV Audience Reach Cap), a rule that limits the number of TV stations a single entity may own nationwide to an audience reach of 39percent of all television households.

May 21, 2018 – Elimination of the Requirement to File EEO Mid-Term Reports – Comments are due regarding the FCC’s requesting comments on a proposal to eliminate the requirement in Section 73.2080 that TV stations with five or more full-time employees and radio stations with 11 or more full-time employees file mid-term reports on FCC Form 397 with the two most recent public file reports attached.

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