Now in Effect: FCC Eliminates Requirement to Post Licenses

As we reported back in December, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued a Report and Order that would eliminate the need to post and maintain broadcast licenses at a physical location. The Commission’s stated goal is to modernize U.S. “media rules and remove unnecessary regulatory burdens that impede competition and innovation in the media marketplace.” That Report and Order is due to be published in the Federal Register, and go into effect, on Friday, February 8, giving broadcasters one less responsibility to worry about.

A Word of Caution to Broadcasters Pertaining to E-Cigarette and Vaping Advertisements

Last month I participated in a webinar with my colleague Dan Kirkpatrick where we addressed the issue of advertising controversial products. While the topic of marijuana advertising (which we discussed in our webinar) gets much attention these days–especially with the recent decision by CBS to turn down a cannabis ad for the Super Bowl–we also examined the advertising of e-cigarettes and nicotine vaping products.
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Jeffrey Mitchell Joins Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C.

Washington-area based telecommunications, media, and technology law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C. is pleased to announce that Jeffrey A. Mitchell has joined the firm as Of Counsel. Jeffrey brings with him more than two decades of Telecommunications experience both in private practice and in multiple roles for the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

The constant for these endeavors is his abiding interest in rural broadband and universal service. With USAC, he directed a $100 million compliance audit program of participants in the Universal Service Fund under close oversight from the FCC’s Inspector General. After leaving USAC, Jeff helped persuade the FCC to enlarge and modernize the Rural Health Care Federal Universal Service program—thus ensuring that health care providers would have the broadband capabilities to properly treat their patients. Continue Reading

FCC Further Extends Certain Deadlines

As we reported, immediately after reopening from the Federal government shutdown, the FCC extended most filing deadlines that would have fallen during the shutdown to January 30, 2019.  Upon review, the FCC has now further extended many of those deadlines. In a Public Notice released on January 30, the Commission’s Bureaus and Offices collectively retained the January 30 due date for most filings that would have been due between January 3 and January 7.  The deadline for filings that would otherwise have been due between January 8 and February 7, however, has now been extended to February 8, with a few exceptions. Specifically, the Public Notice explicitly adopted different deadlines for the following items: Continue Reading

FCC Extends Filing Deadlines

As we reported early in the government shutdown, the FCC proactively extended most filing deadlines until one business day after the first day the FCC was re-opened post-shutdown. Now that the government (including the FCC) has reopened, the Commission has further extended that deadline by one additional day. As a result, most filings that would have been due between January 3 and January 29 are now due by no later than January 30, 2019. Broadcasters should take note that all Q4 2018 Children’s TV Reports and issues-programs reports that were due to be uploaded to their station’s online public file earlier this month are “filings” included in this deadline.

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for February-April

You’ll find below the list of deadlines* facing broadcasters and telecommunications providers during the upcoming months of February, March, and April.

If you noted the asterisk, it’s because the government shutdown may affect many of these deadlines, either because the relevant online filing system or the required information is not accessible. If that is the case, the deadline is likely to be moved to the first full day after the FCC reopens. However, you should not assume anything — and in any event should be prepared to make required filings on a moment’s notice.

Further, in addition to those uncertainties, you should understand that the list is NOT exclusive, so there may be others. For help meeting these deadlines or answering questions about any that may not be listed here, please contact FHH at 703-812-0400. Continue Reading

Webcaster Wake Up Call: The (Not Entirely) Shutdown Update

This is the promised follow up to our December 14, 2018 post regarding the compliance obligations for 2019 under the statutory licenses found in Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act (the “statutory licenses”) allowing webcasters to make public performances sound recordings via digital audio transmission and to make related temporary copies of those recordings.  And let’s get this right out of the way:  no, the government shutdown does not extend the January 31 deadline for filing Annual Minimum Fee Statements of Account, making the initial $500 per channel annual minimum fee payment and, if applicable, electing to pay the $100 “proxy fee” in lieu of filing Reports of Use that is available to eligible Noncommercial Educational Webcasters.

That’s one week away. So it’s time to stop procrastinating and get on it, especially if (1) you are not entirely familiar with the SoundExchange Licensee Direct online filing portal or (2) have changes from 2018 (in which case you may need to contact SoundExchange to notify that entity of the changes prior to making your initial 2019 filings and payments. Continue Reading

Remember to Exercise Super Judgment When Discussing the Big Game

The matchup for the National Football League’s championship game, aka the “Super Bowl”, is set. The Los Angeles Rams will face the New England Patriots on Sunday, February 3 in Atlanta in a game that will be hard pressed to exceed either conference championship game in terms of excitement or controversy. Each of the NFC Championship, where the Rams beat the New Orleans Saints, and in the AFC Championship, where the Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs,  saw one of the teams come back from a double-digit deficit to force a thrilling overtime finish. Both games will be remembered for some questionable officiating. Continue Reading

FCC Shutdown Becomes a Little Less Shut Down

One downside of a government shutdown—or the present partial shutdown that includes the FCC—is the inability of technology companies to obtain the FCC certifications they need to market certain kinds of new products.

Good news: the FCC has reopened a website that makes it possible for most (not all) new devices to obtain their certifications. Continue Reading

Now Available: Controversial Advertising and Sponsorship Identification Webinar

In collaboration with the Colorado Broadcasters Association, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth’s Frank Montero and Dan Kirkpatrick presented a webinar covering guidelines for broadcasters on how to handle controversial advertising and proper sponsorship identification. Frank and Dan discussed many aspects of Federal and state regulation pertaining to advertising on potentially problematic subjects, including marijuana, tobacco, alcohol, and gambling. They also discussed station-sponsored contests, hitting on topics such as what constitutes a lottery. Rounding out the webinar, they took up the topic of sponsorship identification, delving into payola and plugola.

If you were unable to log in to watch the webinar live or if you want to review the high points again, you can download and print the presentation in PDF form here. If you want to watch the webinar in its entirety, please email Dan Kirkpatrick at kirkpatrick@fhhlaw.com.

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