New year brings filing deadlines for noncommercial educational webcasters

The beginning of another year brings renewed obligations for all broadcasters who are operating a non-interactive webcast (as opposed to an on-line service that provides interactive downloads or podcasts). That universe is populated by three separate and distinct types of webcasters, each of which has slightly different obligations from the others. Those three types are: (1) commercial webcasters; (2) noncommercial webcasters; and (3) noncommercial educational webcasters.

Important definitional note: For purposes of webcasting royalties, the distinction between commercial and noncommercial is not based on the nature of the underlying broadcast license. Rather, it’s based on the reporting entity’s status under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code. If a webcaster is exempt from taxation under Section 501, it is deemed to be NONcommercial when it comes to webcaster royalty matters. And if a noncommercial webcaster’s operation is substantially staffed by students, it is a noncommercial educational webcaster. This post is addressed to noncommercial educational licensees. (Simultaneously with this item we are also posting similar items for the other two types of webcasters – so if you happen to be commercial webcaster or a noncommercial (but not an “educational”) webcaster, look elsewhere here on for a post addressed to your own particular situation.)

If you are engaged in the NONCOMMERCIAL EDUCATIONAL WEBCASTING of one or more streams, your first filing of the new year – primarily consisting of an annual minimum fee statement of account with payment of $500 per channel – is due on January 31, 2011.  But your obligations continue throughout the year with statements of account and playlist reports of use required on a monthly basis. 

Here’s a list of the routine filing obligations facing a noncommercial educational webcaster:

Annual Minimum Statement of Account Form and Fee – You must file an annual minimum fee of $500 per channel by January 31, 2011 (or within 45 days of commencing webcasting). The fee must be filed along with the 2011 Noncommercial Educational Webcaster Minimum Fee Statement of Account form found here. A separate form must be filed for each channel or station. 

Monthly Statement of Account Form and Fee – You must also file the 2011 Noncommercial Educational Webcaster Excess Monthly Liability Statement of Account form found here. If you exceeded the 159,140 aggregate tuning hour maximum, you must submit any resulting fees along with the form.  You must file this form even if no fees have been incurred, and you must calculate and insert your total ATH in the appropriate columns even if you do not exceed the maximum. Again, a separate form must be filed for each channel or station.

Playlist Reports of Use – Playlist Reports of Use must be filed on a quarterly basis using the template report for filing (in Excel format) found here, unless you:

exceeded 159,140 aggregate tuning hours in a given month during 2010 or 2011, in which case you file on a monthly basis; or

did not exceed 55,000 aggregate tuning hours in any given month in 2010 and do not expect to exceed that level in the year 2011 – in which case you can file the proper Notice of Election form (see below) and pay $100 for the right to be exempted from this requirement altogether.

Notice of Election – There is no need to file a Notice of Election unless you qualify for exemption from filing of Playlist Reports of Use. If you never exceeded 55,000 aggregate tuning hours in any month in 2010 and choose to pay a $100 “proxy fee” in lieu of filing reports, you may elect to do so by filing a Notice of Election. You do that by filing the 2011 Noncommercial Educational Webcaster Notice of Election form found here. If you do not meet the eligibility standards, or if you choose not to seek an exemption, you need not file the form.

Again, these forms apply to stations that are noncommercial educational webcasters. If you are not a noncommercial educational webcaster, please check our posts describing the requirements for commercial webcasters or noncommercial (but not educational) webcasters.

Remember, your annual minimum statement of account forms and payments (and Notice of Election, if applicable) are due by January 31, 2011.  You cannot file these forms electronically, and there is a penalty for late payment (or worse consequences, for late-filing a Notice of Election), so if you haven’t gotten started yet, now would be a good time.