Broadcasters Check your Online Public File Links!

Recently, many broadcasters have been discovering that their stations’ on-line public file hyperlinks are failing to connect.  We have learned that this is likely due to recent modifications to the FCC’s internal servers. The hyperlinks currently direct viewers to a webpage that reads as follows: “We’re Sorry. We couldn’t find the page you were looking for.” To resolve this issue, broadcasters who maintain public files should update the on-line public file hyperlink on their website homepage as soon as possible.   To do this go to your public file’s hyperlink and copy it on to your station’s home page.  Now many may say…  “so what…this problem is the FCC’s fault”.  But remember that maintaining a current and functioning on-line public file as well as the link to the file is the obligation of the broadcasters.

Should you have any questions about this, please contact the FCC or your friendly broadcast attorneys at Fletcher Heald & Hildreth. Happy Holidays!

November Open Meeting

On Thursday, November 18, 2021, the FCC will host its November Open Meeting. The headlining item this month addresses the ability to text 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 3-digit number.  The FCC adopted an item that assigned 988 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and required certain providers to support calling to that number just last year.

In addition, the FCC will consider rules to enhance competition incentives to make spectrum more readily available to small carriers and Tribal Nations. This item seeks comment on steps the FCC could take to promote diversity of spectrum access and availability of rural service, as outlined in the MOBILE NOW Act. In particular, the proposed Enhanced Competition Incentive Program would modify the Commission’s existing partitioning, disaggregation, and leasing incentives. The program also would motivate stakeholders to engage in qualifying transactions that make spectrum available to qualifying entities and in specified areas.

The FCC also is considering a proposal to verify the directional antenna patterns of FM radio stations using computer modeling rather than real-world testing. Computer modeling is a cheaper alternative to the physical modeling and measurements currently required under FCC rules. This proposal would harmonize FM antenna pattern modeling rules with those of AM radio and TV/DTV stations, which are already permitted to use computer modeling.

The meeting will be available for public viewing via live feed on the FCC’s website.

FCC Commits $1.1 Billion to Connectivity Fund Program

The Federal Communications Commission has continued to show its commitment to digital equity by committing $1.1 billion to schools and libraries in the second wave of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. This funding supports off-premises educational needs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. In particular, the program is funding devices and broadband to support learning that occurs “off-premises,” or outside of school and library campuses, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, the FCC has committed nearly $2.4 billion and has connected nearly 8 million students with tech devices, WiFi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-premises use. This is in contrast to the FCC’s Schools and Libraries Program (or E-rate), which allows Universal Service Funds to be used only for connectivity purposes on school and library campuses or to connect a school or library to the Internet. In addition, unlike the E-rate program, the ECF subsidy was 100% and there was no separate competitive bidding requirement (although any state and local procurement rules still apply).  Significantly, the FCC has exceeded its initial goal by funding decisions for nearly 60% of applications within 60 days of the closing of the first filing window. These contributions have aided in funding over 2.4 million devices and 1.9 million broadband connections nationally.

If you have questions about the Emergency Connectivity Fund program, please contact our office for more information.

CEDC First Meeting

The FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE) has been rechartered and rebranded as the Communications Equity and Diversity Council (CEDC).  Fletcher Heald partner Frank Montero served on the ACDDE in the early 2000s when it was first established. The overall mission for the CEDC is to expand on the work done by the ACDDE who focused on reviewing critical diversity and equity issues across the tech sector. Some of the expanded goals of the CEDC are to accelerate the deployment of broadband in all communities, strengthen existing broadband networks and develop new broadband networks. The CEDC has planned its first general meeting for November 3, 2021. The meeting will be available for public viewing via live feed on the FCC website.

The agenda for this upcoming meeting includes establishing working groups. Working groups will help the council carry out its work on advancing equity throughout the FCC. Presently there are three working groups within the FCC: Access to Capital Working Group, Digital Empowerment and Inclusion Working Group, and Diversity in the Tech Sector Working Group. These groups work in conjunction to address issues such as: improving access to capital, encouraging a diverse range of voices in management and ownership, assessing access and use of broadband by under-resourced communities, and examining the hiring, promotion, and retention of women and minorities in the tech industries.

Members of the public may submit any questions they have during the meeting to livequestions@fcc.gov or they may submit comments using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System at www.fcc.gov/​ecfs. Comments to the CEDC should be filed in GN Docket No. 17-208. Open captioning will be provided for this event and other reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities are available upon request. Requests for such accommodations should be submitted via email to fcc504@fcc.gov or by calling the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY).

 

Biden Announces Nominations for Key Communications Positions

This month, President Biden has finally announced nominations for FCC Chair in Jessica Rosenworcel and for the open Democratic seat on the FCC in Gigi Sohn, respectively.  The President also announced his nomination of Alan Davidson for Director of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the Department of Commerce.

With the dual FCC nominations, President Biden officially nominated Ms. Rosenworcel as the first permanent female chair of the FCC.  Ms. Rosenworcel has been Acting Chair of the FCC since the departure of the former chairperson, Ajit Pai.

Additionally, if confirmed, Ms. Sohn will also make FCC history as the first openly LGBTQIA+ Commissioner. Ms. Sohn has served as Chief of Staff for former Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Prior to that position, she worked as the Co-Founder and CEO of the communications and intellectual property policy advocacy organization Public Knowledge.

Mr. Davidson, if confirmed, will serve as the President’s principal advisor on telecommunications and information policy. Davidson is a leader in the nonprofit internet community working to promote equitable broadband access.

Notably, these nominations come after much frustration from lawmakers and broadband companies alike due to the President’s delay in nominating his permanent FCC chair.  Federal law allowed Rosenworcel to keep her seat until year-end allowing her to stay on as Acting Chair. However, with the Congressional term nearing its end and the President’s delay in filling the empty FCC seat, the Republicans would have a de facto 2-1 majority at the FCC if Biden failed to nominate Rosenworcel and Sohn. This Republican majority would continue until the two Democratic seats were filled.

December 1st and Television License Renewal Deadlines

FCC License renewal applications and associated EEO Program Reports are due on or before Wednesday, December 1st for radio licensees located in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont and television licensees in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Radio and television stations must file renewals regardless of commercial or noncommercial status in the FCC’s licensing Management System (LMS). Both television and radio licensees must include Schedule 396, the Broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity Program Report, in their renewal application.

The FCC also requires radio and television licensees to provide local post-filing public notice of their renewal applications. Pre-filing announcements are no longer required.  Listeners and viewers may review the station’s filing and file comments regarding their renewal application. For more details on the procedures and timing requirements for public notice, licensees should review the Commission’s Local Public Notice Requirements on their Broadcast Radio License Renewal Page and the Broadcast Television License Renewal Page.

As we have noted, a major focus of the FCC’s review is a thorough inspection of the station’s on-line public inspection file (OPIF).  For that reason we urge all stations with upcoming license renewals to begin a thorough review of their OPIFs.  Any incomplete filings or late filings in the station’s OPIF will have to be disclosed in the renewal application.  Fletcher Heald maintains an archive of resource materials on public file maintenance.

For more information on upcoming license renewal deadlines, licensees can view the complete deadlines by state for radio and deadlines by state for television.

Broadcast Deadlines

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for December – February

December 1, 2021

Biennial Ownership ReportsAll licensees and entities holding an attributable interest in a licensee of one or more AM, FM, TV, Class A television, and/or Low Power TV (LPTV) stations must file a biennial ownership report reflecting information as of October 1, 2019.  Please recall that not only corporations and limited liability companies, but also sole proprietorships and partnerships composed entirely of natural persons (as opposed to a legal person, such as a corporation) are included in the licensees that must file reports. Please recall that noncommercial and commercial entities are required to file by the same date.  Additionally, all persons holding an attributable interest in a commercial licensee must have acquired either an FCC Registration Number (FRN) or Restricted Use FRN.

Radio License Renewal Applications Due – Applications for renewal of license for radio stations located in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont must be filed in the Licensing and Management System (LMS).  These applications must be accompanied by Schedule 396, the Broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program Report, also filed in LMS, regardless of the number of full-time employees.  Under the current public notice rules, radio stations, including LPFM stations, filing renewal applications must begin broadcasts of their post-filing announcements concerning their license renewal applications between the date the application is accepted for filing and five business days thereafter and must continue for a period of four weeks.  Once complete, full-power radio stations must post a certification of broadcast, with a copy of the announcement’s text, to the Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) within seven days.  FM translators must post renewal notice texts on an acceptable website (station, licensee, parent or as otherwise described by the FCC), linked under the title FCC Applications, within five business days after the date on which the FCC issues PN of the acceptance of the renewal application and must remain posted for 30 days.

Television License Renewal Applications Due – Applications for renewal of license for television stations located in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota must be filed in LMS.  These applications must be accompanied by Schedule 396, the Broadcast EEO Program Report, also filed in LMS, regardless of the number of full-time employees.  Under the current public notice rules, television stations (including LPTV stations that originate programming) filing renewal applications must begin broadcasts of their post-filing announcements concerning their license renewal applications between the date the application is accepted for filing and five business days thereafter and must continue for a period of four weeks.  Once complete, TV stations must post a certification of broadcast, with a copy of the announcement’s text, to the Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) within seven days.  LPTV stations that do not originate programming and TV translators must post renewal notice texts on an acceptable website (station, licensee, parent or as otherwise described by the FCC), linked under the title FCC Applications, within five business days after the date on which the FCC issues PN of the acceptance of the renewal application and must remain posted for 30 days.

EEO Public File Reports – All radio and television station employment units with five or more full-time employees and located in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont must place EEO Public File Reports in their OPIFs. For all stations with websites, the report must be posted there as well. Per announced FCC policy, the reporting period may end ten days before the report is due, and the reporting period for the next year will begin on the following day.

January 30, 2022

Children’s Television Programming Reports – Each commercial TV and Class A television station must electronically file its annual Children’s Television Programming Report, on FCC Form 2100 Schedule H, to report on programming aired by the station and other efforts in 2021 that were specifically designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children.

Commercial Compliance Certifications – Each commercial TV and Class A television station must post to its OPIF a certification (or certifications) of compliance during 2021 with the statutory limits on commercial time during children’s programming.  The certification(s) should cover both the primary programming stream and all subchannels aired by the station.

February 1, 2022

Radio License Renewal Applications Due – Applications for renewal of license for radio stations located in New Jersey and New York must be filed in the Licensing and Management System (LMS).  These applications must be accompanied by Schedule 396, the Broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program Report, also filed in LMS, regardless of the number of full-time employees.  Under the current public notice rules, radio stations, including LPFM stations, filing renewal applications must begin broadcasts of their post-filing announcements concerning their license renewal applications between the date the application is accepted for filing and five business days thereafter and must continue for a period of four weeks.  Once complete, full-power radio stations must post a certification of broadcast, with a copy of the announcement’s text, to the Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) within seven days.  FM translators must post renewal notice texts on an acceptable website (station, licensee, parent or as otherwise described by the FCC), linked under the title FCC Applications, within five business days after the date on which the FCC issues PN of the acceptance of the renewal application and must remain posted for 30 days.

Television License Renewal Applications Due – Applications for renewal of license for television stations located in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma must be filed in LMS.  These applications must be accompanied by Schedule 396, the Broadcast EEO Program Report, also filed in LMS, regardless of the number of full-time employees.  Under the current public notice rules, television stations (including LPTV stations that originate programming) filing renewal applications must begin broadcasts of their post-filing announcements concerning their license renewal applications between the date the application is accepted for filing and five business days thereafter and must continue for a period of four weeks.  Once complete, TV stations must post a certification of broadcast, with a copy of the announcement’s text, to the Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) within seven days.  LPTV stations that do not originate programming and TV translators must post renewal notice texts on an acceptable website (station, licensee, parent or as otherwise described by the FCC), linked under the title FCC Applications, within five business days after the date on which the FCC issues PN of the acceptance of the renewal application and must remain posted for 30 days.

EEO Public File Reports – All radio and television station employment units with five or more full-time employees and located in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma must place EEO Public File Reports in their OPIFs. For all stations with websites, the report must be posted there as well. Per announced FCC policy, the reporting period may end ten days before the report is due, and the reporting period for the next year will begin on the following day.

2021 Biennial Ownership Reports

It’s that time of (every other) year again – The FCC announced that the filing window has opened and Biennial Ownership reports are due Wednesday, December 1st 2021.

Every odd-numbered year, the FCC collects information about the owners of commercial and noncommercial licensees of broadcast stations. The FCC collects this data to ensure that the Commission and the public are informed about who owns, operates, and controls broadcast stations, and to understand the demographic makeup of the broadcast industry. These reports are a snapshot of the industry as of October 1, 2021, meaning that the reports should not reflect changes after October 1st, 2021.

All Licensees of Full Power Television, Class A Television, Low Power Television, AM Radio, FM Radio, and the entities that own an interest in those stations must file an ownership report with the FCC. In other words, if an FM radio station is owned by a parent entity, both the licensee and the parent entity must report ownership data. This applies to both commercial and non-commercial stations.

To file an ownership report, licensees should use the Commission’s Licensing and Management System. Commercial stations file Form 323, while noncommercial stations file Form 323-E. If there are no changes in ownership from the previous filing in 2019, the form will allow you to reference your previous filing, autofill the report, review, and submit. If there are changes, licensees should plan ahead to make sure they have plenty of time to submit a new, accurate report. One step licensees and parent entities should take to ensure that they can complete their filings efficiently is to make sure that every individual with an attributable interest in their station or parent entity has an FCC Registration Number, or “FRN.” You can find the registration instructions here or register here.

The FCC has released a number of resources to assist filers of ownership reports, which can be found here.

Filing Window for New NCE FM Station Construction Permits

On April 21, 2021, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing an upcoming filing window to submit applications for new noncommercial educational (NCE) FM station construction permits.  The filing window will open at 12:01 am EDT on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, and close at 6:00 pm EST on Tuesday, November 9, 2021.  (Applications filed in this window are NOT first-come, first-served.) The window is available for FM reserved band 88.1 to 91.9 MHz, consisting Channels 201 to 220.  Any applications submitted before the window opens, or after the 6:00 pm EST deadline on November 9, 2021 will be dismissed without further consideration.

New NCE FM applications must be filed electronically on FCC Form 2100, Schedule 340 in the FCC Media Bureau’s Licensing and Management System (LMS). Paper filed applications will not be considered, and applicants are limited to filing no more than 10 applications. There is no filing fee.

First time applicants should note that:

  • NCE stations are licensed only to non-profit educational organizations (not individuals);
  • NCE FM new station licensing opportunities are more readily available in rural areas and smaller communities;
  • The FCC does not publish a list of available frequencies or otherwise provide tools to locate available frequencies; and
  • Applicants generally retain legal counsel and engineering consultants to assist in preparing certain portions of the application.

The FCC recently amended its rules and procedures for filing NCE FM applications and selecting and licensing competing NCE FM applications.  Detailed information about filing procedures and eligibility requirements are available at https://www.fcc.gov/document/nce-fm-new-station-filing-procedures-november-2021-window. You may visit https://www.commlawblog.com/2021/04/articles/fcc/dates-announced-for-non-commercial-educational-station-filing-window/ to view a previous post we shared.

In conjunction with this filing window, the FCC has frozen FM reserved band minor change applications and FM non-reserved band adjacent channels (channels 221 – 223) and intermediate frequency (channels 254 – 274) minor change applications as of 11:59 p.m. EDT, October 4, 2021. The freeze will continue until the close of the NCE filing window.

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for June – August

Broadcast Deadlines:

June 1, 2021

Radio License Renewal Applications Due – Applications for renewal of license for radio stations located in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming must be filed in Licensing and Management System (LMS). These applications must be accompanied by Schedule 396, the Broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity Program Report (EEO), also filed in LMS, regardless of the number of full-time employees. Under the new public notice rules, radio stations filing renewal applications must begin broadcasts of their post-filing announcements concerning their license renewal applications between the date the application is accepted for filing and five business days thereafter and must continue for a period of four weeks. Once complete, a certification of broadcast, with a copy of the announcement’s text, must be posted to the Online Public Inspection File (OPIF). Continue Reading

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