In a Public Notice released today, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) announced extensions to certain April deadlines for broadcasters:
Children’s Television Annual Report
As discussed in our previous CommLawBlog post on the subject, the first annual Children’s Television Report (covering the period from September 16, 2019-December 31, 2019) was already extended to a March 30 due date. Now that due date has been further extended until July 10.
Quarterly issues-programs lists for the first quarter of 2020, which were due to be uploaded to stations’ online public inspection files (“OPIF”) by April 10, are now due in the public file on or before July 10. This will mean they will be filed at the same time as the issues-programs lists for Q2 2020.
Radio License Renewals for IN, KY, and TN due April 1
Not covered in the announcement are radio license renewals due April 1. Despite a joint request filed by the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, the Kentucky Broadcasters Association, and the Indiana Broadcasters Association, the FCC has declined to extend the April 1 license renewal filing deadline for Indiana, Kentucky, or Tennessee radio stations. But the FCC did advise counsel for the state associations that, in light of the unique circumstances presented by the coronavirus pandemic, they have adopted a liberal policy for any stations that request extensions of time to file their renewal applications and related Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Program Reports.
Extension of time requests can be submitted to Audio Division Chief Albert Shuldiner (Albert.Shuldiner@fcc.gov) by email. Stations should make clear that additional time is needed based on a lack of resources and/or a lack of access to necessary documentation. Outside counsel are also welcome to file consolidated requests in a single email on behalf of multiple stations or multiple owners. The FCC says that they believe they will be able to address these requests on a case-by-case basis. Also, to the extent that stations file during the month of April, even without a formal extension request, the FCC says it does not intend to take any enforcement action or impose fines in recognition of the current emergency situation. However, they strongly encourage those stations that can file on time to comply with the April 1st deadline. Under FCC rules, stations that file after April 1 extend the time during which objections to their renewals can be filed.
What is NOT extended:
The FCC makes clear in the Public Notice that political file obligations continue apace (as a reminder: political and issue ad orders must be uploaded within 24 hours or as soon as practicable – noting on the order that a delay is due to the coronavirus, if applicable).
Annual EEO public file reports due for IN, KY, TN, TX, DE, and PA radio and TV stations (those with 5 or more full-time employees only) must still be completed and uploaded to the online public file.
In addition, Class A TV stations must upload their quarterly certificates of compliance with Class A obligations, but the FCC’s Video Division has indicated that it will grant extensions of time requests by individual stations that are unable to complete the filing by April 10.
Along with the FCC, we encourage stations to file or upload their required applications and/or reports as soon as they are able, regardless of the extensions granted, as that will help maintain normalcy and ensure required documents aren’t overlooked in July. However, broadcasters who are struggling should, of course, take advantage of the reprieves offered to focus on the health and safety of their staff and community.