FCC Proposes $15,000 Penalty for LPFM Violations of Underwriting Rules

On July 2, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (“NAL”) against low power FM (LPFM) broadcast station KELS-LP, Greeley, Colorado, in which it assessed a $15,000 civil penalty for the station’s apparent violations of the prohibition on noncommercial educational (NCE) and LPFM broadcast stations underwriting acknowledgements that the FCC deems to be forbidden commercial advertisements. The announcements in this case were not like some of the outright commercials that have been the subject of past NCE forfeitures. There were no specific dollar prices or outright exhortations to “come on down and spend your money with us” that we have seen in other cases. The KELS-LP case focuses mostly on qualitative statements about the underwriter and the number of products or services mentioned. While it does not establish any new forbidden types of content that have not been previously announced in policy statements and forfeiture cases, it is the first case we have seen in a while where the actual on-air copy was included in the NAL, and it finds fault with some underwriting copy that does not jump off the page as being over the legal line; so the case is worthwhile reading to provide guidance to the staff of NCE and LPFM stations. Continue Reading

FCC Seeks Confirmation of C-Band Earth Stations Entitled to Reimbursement. Deadline for Filing is July 16th.

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has just released a Public Notice that impacts operators of C-Band (3.7-4.2 GHz) earth station dishes to receive or transmit programming or data. Previously, the FCC reallocated the lower portion of that band for auction, with incumbents earth stations entitled to reimbursement for their expenses to move their operations to the upper part of the band. In order to be eligible for reimbursement, a C-Band earth station must meet certain qualifications: Continue Reading

240,000 Reasons to File Proper FCC Applications When You Buy a Business That Holds Wireless Licenses

The FCC recently released a Consent Decree in which the Archer Daniel Midlands Company (“ADM”) agreed to pay a $240,000 penalty for violating the FCC’s rules by engaging in transactions where five FCC wireless licenses were transferred without filing for and obtaining the prior consent of the FCC, and by failing to reveal in numerous other applications that it had been convicted of a felony. It is important for wireless licensees to comply with these requirements if they wish to avoid a similar or worse result.  Continue Reading

TV Stations and MVPDs Must Upload Contact Information by July 31st

As we head into Summer, it’s important for TV broadcasters to remember the upcoming deadlines this Fall associated with notifying multichannel video program distributors (“MVPDs”) – primarily cable TV and direct broadcast satellite operators – of the station’s election of either must-carry or retransmission consent carriage status on the MVPD systems.   Two critical deadlines are coming up: by July 31st, TV broadcasters and MVPDs must make sure that contact information on file with the FCC is up-to-date; and by October 1st, all TV stations must upload their must-carry/retransmission consent elections. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for July – September

Broadcast Deadlines:

 July 10, 2020

Children’s Television Programming Reports – For the first time, and after two delays, all commercial television and Class A television stations must file electronically annual children’s television programming reports with the Commission, although the first one will cover only the portion of the year which began with the effective date of the revised rules (September 16-December 31, 2019). These reports should be automatically included in the OPIF, but we would recommend checking, as the FCC bases its initial judgments of filing compliance on the contents and dates shown in the online public file. Continue Reading

FCC Extends Sponsorship ID Waiver for Sponsored COVID-19 PSAs

The Media Bureau today extended the waiver it enacted in April to alleviate broadcast sponsorship identification requirements concerning air time donated by commercial advertisers for public service announcements (“PSAs”) provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and other government agencies addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Pursuant to this extension, commercial time donated for COVID-19 PSAs will not be required to be accompanied by a sponsorship ID through August 31, 2020.

Welcoming Kristen Corra to 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 the arrival of Kristen Corra, who has joined the firm as an Associate. Having represented a major wireless carrier and assisted with securing commercial leasing, licensing, and potential acquisition of telecommunications infrastructure, Kristen brings her prowess to the firm’s formidable team of telecom-focused attorneys. Continue Reading

FCC Pressed to Expand Local Origination on FM Translators and Boosters

A group of 24 radio broadcast licensees has petitioned the FCC to expand the concept of localized program content beyond FM boosters and to allow localized origination by FM translators as well.

On April 24, 2012, and April 13, 2020, we blogged about a proposal by GeoBroadcast Solutions, LLC, (“GeoBroadcast”) to allow FM radio stations to operate on-channel boosters that do not entirely duplicate the content of the main station.  Each booster could broadcast local content intended for just the specific portion of the main station’s service area where the booster is located.  The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) invited comments on the proposal, which were due May 4, 2020. Continue Reading

No National Test this Year for FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) has announced that it will not conduct a national test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (“IPAWS”) via the broadcast Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) and Wireless Emergency Alert (“WEA”) system this year. As we have written about in the past, EAS tests are sometimes postponed due to natural disasters and other extenuating circumstances, but this will be the first time in nearly a decade that they are canceled.

In a statement released late last week, FEMA indicated cancellation of the 2020 nationwide test is intended to help lower the workload for broadcast staff – already overburdened adjusting to COVID-19 – in particular by removing the need to file EAS reports. FEMA is only required to test the IPAWS system every three years, and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) found that last year’s test was largely effective, having reached 82.5% of participants. Broadcast weekly and monthly tests are not effected and must continue to be conducted.

The FCC Releases Reconsideration of Procedures for Conversion from ATSC 1.0 to 3.0

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has issued a Second Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration, largely leaving intact the rules it adopted in 2017 authorizing television broadcast stations to implement the ATSC 3.0 technical standard, now known as “NextGen” TV. Continue Reading