REC ‘N’ Roll in the FM Band: LPFM Changes Proposed, NCE-FM Changes Requested

Yes, REC Networks (“RECNET”) is on a roll with the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) when it comes to the FM radio broadcast band.  Describing itself as a “leading advocate for a citizen’s access to spectrum with a heavy focus on the LPFM and full-service non-commercial radio,” RECNET has succeeded in getting the FCC to propose modifications to the Low Power FM (“LPFM”) rules and has jumped right back in the game with a new petition to allow the creation of new small non-commercial FM stations in rural areas. Continue Reading

Reminder: EAS National Test Scheduled for August 7

Unless it is delayed by a real national emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) are on track to conduct a combined nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Wednesday, August 7, at 2:20 p.m. EDT.  For most participants, this year’s test will be disseminated only using the broadcast “daisy chain,” rather than through the internet-based Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (“IPAWS”).  IPAWS this year will be used only to disseminate the test message to Primary Entry Point stations, which will then distribute it through the broadcast daisy chain.

EAS participants should have already filed their EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form 1 providing information about their EAS equipment. On August 7, the FCC will be expecting EAS participants to monitor their equipment and, for most participants, to file “day-of-test” ETRS Form 2 by the end of the day. Finally, all EAS participants will also be required to file a post-test ETRS Form 3 no later than September 23.

Based on our experience with previous years’ tests, we would expect that there will be some congestion in the ETRS system after the test, so you should probably be prepared to spend some time completing your filings. Please contact us if you have any questions about the EAS test or the ETRS filing systems.

Now Available: 2019 FCC License Renewal Webinar

On Tuesday, July 30th, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth’s Frank Montero and Dan Kirkpatrick presented a webinar on the FCC license renewal process to the Florida Association of Broadcasters. They covered many steps in the renewal process including the filing of the required FCC Forms for full power radio and translator stations using the new LMS filing system, and questions broadcasters might have on the numerous certifications included in those forms. The webinar also discussed the impact of the online public file (OPIF) on the review and processing of stations’ renewal applications, some of the details relevant to the OPIF are expanded upon in our webinar from April, which we urge you to check out as well.

If you didn’t catch the webinar live or just want to go over the presentation in more detail, you can download and print the presentation’s PowerPoint slides here. You may also watch the full video recording of the webinar on YouTube. Of course, if you have any more questions about the license renewal process, please reach out to us at fhhwebinar@fhhlaw.com.

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for August – October

Broadcast Deadlines:

August 1, 2019:

License Renewal Pre-Filing Announcements – Radio stations located in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands must begin broadcasts of their pre-filing announcements with regard to their applications for renewal of the license.  These announcements must be continued on August 16, September 1, and September 16. Continue Reading

Barreling Down the Road to 5G, FCC Votes to Relax EBS Spectrum Rules

On June 20, 2019, I blogged about the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) plan to vote on July 10 to relax the rules governing the Educational Broadband Service (“EBS”), including eliminating the requirement to devote part of the air time to educational purposes and opening up license eligibility to commercial entities. Sure enough, the FCC voted, and the proposed rule changes were adopted, although the Commissioners split along political party lines.

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FCC Makes Leased Access Rules More Cable Operator Friendly, Opens the Door to Eliminating Them

On June 7, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) released a Report and Order (“R&O”) revising the Commission’s rules under which independent programmers may lease cable TV channels to retransmit their programming (“Leased Access Rules”).   Leased Access has rarely been used, due to concerns by both cable operators and programmers, and the recent revisions may make Leased Access even less attractive to programmers.   Furthermore, in a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) attached to the R&O, the Commission seems to be opening up a proceeding to eliminate the Leased Access Rules in their entirety based on the widespread availability of Internet platforms for distribution of video programming. Continue Reading

New Developments in Broadband – June

Capitol Hill

We continue to expect that House Democrats will pass their “Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act” (LIFT America Act) infrastructure proposal, however, any deal with President Trump on infrastructure remains on hold.  The House bill includes $45 billion in broadband funding – $30 billion in reverse auction funds to be administered by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”), $10 billion in reverse auction funds to be administered by the states, and $5 billion in federal loans and loan guarantees to be administered by National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

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Taking the Same Slant on the Lanham Act for the Second Time in Two Years, Supreme Court tells USPTO to Go Ask Congress to Try Again

Let’s get this out of the way: this blog post is going to include an unseemly, in my mind,  profane, even obscene, term.  I’m just going to put it out there up front, even though I think it’s one of the worst things you can say.  And no, the First Amendment doesn’t protect it.

It’s “viewpoint discrimination.”  Even writing it makes me uneasy.

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Supreme Court SNAPS back Against Access to Information

I was one of many who traveled (in my case, on foot) to the United States Supreme Court on April 22, 2019 to watch oral arguments in the case of Food Marketing Institute, Inc. v. Argus Leader.  I was there because two of my clients joined an amicus brief in support of the newspaper’s fight for access to records about the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and because the case held a greater meaning for anyone interested in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as this was the first time the Court would be exploring the breadth of FOIA Exemption 4 (which I’ll describe in greater detail below).  I had a distinctly negative feeling about the likely outcome of the case when the hour was up; my gut instinct was confirmed on June 24, 2019, when the court, in a written by Justice Gorsuch, not only narrowed the scope of Exemption 4 but also appeared to attempt to redefine the fundamental nature of the law itself. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for July-September

Broadcast Deadlines:

July 3, 2019:

Emergency Alert System National Test – Participants’ EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form One Due – In preparation for this year’s national EAS test on August 7 at 2:20 p.m. EDT, all EAS participants must file ETRS Form One, which sets forth the EAS equipment that the participant has and other details of its operation, by July 3.

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