Selected New Developments in Broadband – November

Capitol Hill

On November 4, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated he is willing to resume negotiations on COVID-19 relief legislation before the end of the year (he had previously indicated no legislation is possible before the end of the year). Whether this would be standalone legislation or part of a necessary government funding package (budgeted funding ends December 11) remains to be seen. It is possible such legislation could include funding for broadband-related programs, such as the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Continue Reading

Now in Effect: FCC Repeals Radio Duplication Prohibitions

Back in August, we wrote about the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) decision to end the prohibition of commonly owned radio stations in the same service (AM or FM) that have 50% or more overlap of their primary service contours from duplicating more than 25% of their programming. Now that the decision is published in the Federal Register, it is effective immediately, and stations may duplicate programming as they see fit.

Now Available: The New FCC Radio License Filing Window – What You Need to Know

On October 29, Fletcher Heald attorneys Frank Montero and Keenan Adamchak in cooperation with the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (“NFCB”) presented a webinar on the upcoming noncommercial educational (“NCE”) FM and lower power FM (“LPFM”) filing windows. In this webinar, they explored the NCE and LPFM application forms, processes, and FCC tie-breaking criteria, as well as pointing out some of the mistakes that can occur when applying for a frequency.  Being prepared will ensure a smooth process for applicants in the NCE and LPFM filing windows. With guidance from this webinar you can start mapping out your strategy and planning today.

You can watch the webinar here on YouTube and on the NFCB’s website.

FCC Authorizes All-Digital AM Service

Taking the next step in its ongoing efforts to revitalize the AM broadcast service, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has authorized AM radio stations to convert to all-digital broadcasting. Making such a switch is expected both to improve the quality of the signal received by listeners and to expand the area in which the audience can receive a listenable signal. Another advantage is that such broadcasts can include metadata, such as song and artist identification, station identification, and the like, plus there is the future possibility of a separate multicast AM channel. The primary downside is that current analog receivers will be unable to pick up the all-digital broadcasts, which means that listeners that currently do not have a digital AM receiver will need to obtain one. Continue Reading

After 16 Years, FCC Lifts TV Filing Freeze

The Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Media Bureau announced via Public Notice the end of a filing freeze on certain full power and Class A TV station modifications that lasted more than 16 years and the leadership of seven FCC chairpersons. The freeze was part of the FCC’s effort to keep a stable technical database first during the DTV transition, and then the incentive auction and associated repack; now that the transition is over and the post-incentive auction is complete, the FCC deemed it an appropriate time to end the freeze and allow additional discretionary changes to television facilities. Continue Reading

Broadcast Local Public Notice Rule Changes Go Into Effect October 30

The Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Local Public Notice Rule Changes have been published in the Federal Register and will go into effect tomorrow, October 30. These changes – which we detailed at length in a previous post – eliminate the obligation to publish a public notice of certain broadcast applications in newspapers, requiring instead that applicants publish these notices in the Online Public Inspection File (“OPIF”) or application databases. Among other changes, the new rules will also standardize the on-air announcement requirements for broadcast local public notices.

Please note that FCC staff has clarified that the change in the public notice rules does not affect license renewal applications which were filed and released on public notice prior to tomorrow’s effective date. If you still have questions in regards to how this will impact your station, please contact Keenan Adamchak at (703) 812-0415 or adamchak@fhhlaw.com.

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for November – January

Broadcast Deadlines:

November 16, 2020 

Amending the Schedule of FCC Application Fees – Comments are due in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC” or the “Commission”) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requesting comments on proposed changes to its application fee schedule, which the FCC considers to be significant and which include fee amounts, most of which would increase though a few would decrease or be eliminated, and other processes covered by its fee requirement. Continue Reading

Fletcher Heald Partner Frank Montero Named “Radio’s Point Man in DC” by Radio Ink

Fletcher Heald partner Frank Montero was featured on the cover of this month’s Radio Ink magazine. The cover story interview describes Frank’s decades of experience in broadcasting, how the industry is handling the COVID-19 crisis, potential changes to FCC leadership, and legal issues broadcasters could face in the future. For more details, check out Radio Ink’s link to the issue.

FCC Proposes Ten Application Limit for New NCE Stations in 2021 Filing Window

In correspondence with members of Congress, Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Chairman Ajit Pai had signaled that an application filing window for new Noncommercial Educational (“NCE”) stations would be opening sometime fairly soon. In a Public Notice (“PN”) released October 19, the FCC confirmed that a filing window will be coming. The specific dates of the window will be announced in a subsequent PN from the Media Bureau. Continue Reading

The Upcoming FCC Noncommercial FM and LPFM Filing Windows: What You Need to Know

FCC Chairman Pai recently announced that for the first time in a decade, the FCC will in the near future accept applications for full-power noncommercial radio stations across the nation. This filing window is expected to be followed by a filing window for new low-power FM (LPFM) stations. What’s involved in filing an application with the FCC? What do you need to know to be prepared? How can you get organized now for this rare opportunity? Noncommercial educational licenses are an important part of the U.S. media ecosystem. The rules governing such stations, who is eligible, the required documentation involved, and how the FCC handles multiple mutually exclusive applications can be difficult to follow. Continue Reading

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