New LPFM Rules Adopted as Anticipated

On April 16, 2020, we wrote about new rules governing applications for and the operation of Low Power FM (“LPFM”) radio stations that were scheduled for adoption by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) at its monthly meeting on April 23.  The new rules were indeed adopted, although by written vote of the Commissioners the day before the meeting.  The Report and Order is now available on the FCC’s website. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for May – July

Broadcast Deadlines:

 May 4, 2020

FM Boosters and Hyper-local Broadcasting – Comments are due with regard to a petition for rulemaking by GeoBroadcast Solutions LLC asking the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) to permit radio broadcasters to use single frequency network (SFN) technology to provide hyper-local programming, emergency alerting, and advertising. Continue Reading

FCC Examining Applications for COVID-19 Telehealth and Connected Care Programs

Over the last month, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) has taken a flurry of COVID-19 pandemic-related actions aimed at increasing access to telehealth and making it easier for carriers to voluntarily assist K‑12 schools, libraries, and health care providers as they respond to COVID-19.  Most dramatically, the Commission voted on April 2, 2020, to establish a $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program with funding authorized by Congress under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act (signed into law on March 27).  The Commission, in the same order, launched the long-awaited $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program.

Less than two weeks after voting out the COVID-19 Telehealth Program order, the Commission was accepting applications on a rolling basis, with the first $3 million in funding approvals coming within days.  Funding 100% of the cost of an array of equipment and services with no competitive bidding requirement (unlike in the Rural Health Care (“RHC”) Program and the Connected Care Pilot Program), this program is close to being a grant program. Continue Reading

Free Press vs. Broadcast Journalism: Truth in the Time of the Coronavirus

The Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC” or the “Commission”) recent rejection (FCC statement here) of a petition submitted by Free Press to demand FCC action with regard to broadcasters’ coverage of governmental statements about the COVID-19 epidemic has received a great deal of coverage. What may have escaped attention, however, is that, aside from some sharp wording, the decision really was just an ordinary expression of the Commission’s longstanding aversion to interfering in broadcasters’ content decisions. Perhaps more surprising is that an organization with the name Free Press is attempting to convince a government agency, the FCC, to force broadcasters to cover the news in a particular way. Regardless of whether Free Press is on the side of the angels in promoting Truth, its petition raises First Amendment issues of supplanting broadcasters’ editorial judgment and compelled speech. Continue Reading

“Sweeps” Are Under the Rug: FCC Seeks Comment on New Metrics to Establish Significant Viewership

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has invited comments on it’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) on whether it should update its rules that determine whether a television broadcast station is “significantly viewed” in communities outside of its Designated Market area (“DMA”) for purposes of carriage on Multichannel Video Program Distribution (“MVPD”) systems, both cable and satellite. Continue Reading

Low Power FM Rule Changes Slated for April 23 FCC Vote

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has released a draft of a Report and Order  scheduled for a vote on April 23, looking toward making several changes in the rules governing Low Power FM (“LPFM”) radio stations.  We wrote an article last year when the rules were proposed.  Not all the requests for rule changes will be granted; for example, the FCC will not allow LPFM stations to increase power from the present 100-watt limit to 250 watts.  However, LPFM stations will be permitted to use directional antennas, to move greater distances without waiting for an application filing window, and to own boosters and translators.  The FCC will decline to announce any new application filing window for new stations and major changes in existing stations for either the LPFM or the full power noncommercial educational (“NCE”) FM service, but it suggests in a footnote that when windows do open, primary stations (i.e. NCE-FM) should be given the earlier opportunity to apply. Continue Reading

Corrected Comment Deadlines for Regulation of RF Emissions in Higher Frequency Bands

On January 9, 2020, we blogged about a Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) decision resolving many of the issues that it had been considering with respect to limits on exposure of human beings to radiofrequency (“RF”) energy. The FCC also invited comments as to whether it should extend its regulation of RF emissions from the present range of 100 kHz to 100 GHz up to 3 THz (3,000 GHz).  On April 7, 2020, we posted the Comment and Reply Comment deadlines.  Those dates were published by the FCC in error and have now been corrected.

The corrected deadlines for the new filings are May 15, 2020, for Comments and June 15, 2020, for Reply Comments.

Effective Date of Truth-in-Billing Statute Deferred

Last year, a new law, the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (“TVPA”), was enacted, requiring Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (“MVPDs”) and providers of fixed broadband services to disclose all charges that a consumer will have to pay before he or she signs up for service.  The statute requires compliance by June 20, 2020, but the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has exercised its authority to grant a six-month extension. Continue Reading

FCC Continues Fines for Improper Use of EAS Signals

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) remains consistent in its enforcement of fines for the improper use of Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) tones.  On April 7, 2020, the Commission released a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (the “Notice”) proposing to levy a $20,000 fine against Entercom License, LLC (Entercom) station WNEW-FM for the unauthorized use of EAS tones. Continue Reading

Is Hyper-Local FM Radio Coming?

A company called GeoBroadcast Solutions, LLC, has filed a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), to allow FM radio stations to operate on-channel boosters that do not entirely duplicate the content of the main station.  The idea is to allow each booster to insert local content intended for just the portion of the main station’s service area where the booster is located.  In effect, FM radio stations would be able to establish single-frequency networks of the type that advocates of the new “NextGen” ATSC 3.0 technology say will soon enable targeted television broadcasting. Continue Reading