ATSC 3.0 Order Encourages the Deployment of Broadcast Internet Services

On December 10, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) released a Report and Order that is intended to encourage further deployment of the ATSC 3.0 Next Generation Television Standard (ATSC 3.0), and particularly to facilitate the expansion of new and innovative ancillary and supplementary “Broadcast Internet” services by noncommercial educational (NCE) stations. These Broadcast Internet services are distinct from traditional over-the-air video programming services.

The Report and Order is the culmination of a proceeding commenced last year with the Commission’s release of a Declaratory Ruling and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). That Declaratory Ruling clarified that a broadcaster’s lease of spectrum to a third party for provision of ancillary, non-broadcast services does not trigger attribution for the FCC’s broadcast ownership rules. In the NPRM, the Commission sought comment on several issues to enhance the growth of ATSC 3.0-enabled Broadcast Internet services. The Report and Order acts on a number of those issues.  Continue Reading

The Implications of COVID-19 on Contract Law

For nearly a year, the world has battled a pandemic defined as Coronavirus-19 or COVID-19. This virus has caused enormous damage worldwide in terms of human life, health, and economic devastation. This destruction has been acutely felt here in the United States, with the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans and the long-term illness of millions, as well as severe economic loss due to factors beyond the control of those who have been affected. Continue Reading

Offense Not Limited to the Field: The NFL’s Aggressive Push To Protect Its Trademarks

It’s that time of year again when the biggest event in professional football triggers all sorts of questions from broadcasters and advertisers about how that event may be mentioned in broadcast programming.  You guessed it:  I’m talking about the Super Bowl.

Most people have undoubtedly heard the Super Bowl referred to as “the Big Game” or the “Sunday Game” by advertisers who are continuously coming up with new and imaginative ways to refer to the Super Bowl without actually uttering the words.  Some other peculiar terms thrown about include Touchdown Tournament, Big Football Time, and Tom Brady Day.  My personal favorite is the Superb Owl. What can I say – I’m not an Eagles fan. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for February – April

Broadcast Deadlines:

February 1, 2021

Radio License Renewal Applications Due – Applications for renewal of license for radio stations located in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma must be filed in the Licensing and Management System (“LMS”). These applications must be accompanied by Schedule 396, the Broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Program Report, also filed in LMS, regardless of the number of full-time employees. Under the new public notice rules, radio stations filing renewal applications must begin broadcasts of their post-filing announcements concerning their license renewal applications between the date the application is accepted for filing and five business days thereafter and must continue for a period of four weeks. Once complete, a certification of broadcast, with a copy of the announcement’s text, must be posted to the Online Public Inspection File (“OPIF”). Continue Reading

Selected New Developments in Broadband – January

Capitol Hill

Although President Trump criticized the final $900 billion COVID-relief legislative package (containing both COVID-relief and an omnibus spending bill that averted a government shutdown) for providing too little financial relief to Americans and too much wasteful spending, on December 27 he signed the package into law. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for January – March

Broadcast Deadlines:

January 30, 2021

Children’s Television Programming Reports – Each commercial TV and Class A television station must electronically file its annual Children’s Television Programming Report, on FCC Form 2100 Schedule H, to report on programming aired by the station and other efforts in 2020 that were specifically designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children.

Commercial Compliance Certifications – Each commercial TV and Class A television station must post to its Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) a certification (or certifications) of compliance during 2020 with the statutory limits on commercial time during children’s programming. The certification(s) should cover both the primary programming stream and all subchannels aired by the station. Continue Reading

FCC Takes Step Forward to Establishment of Rip and Replace Program

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) took a significant step forward this month in concretizing its program for extirpating equipment from the country’s communications networks that poses a threat to national security. The Commission’s Order in large part implements the objectives of the Secure and Trusted Networks Act of 2019 (the “Secure Networks Act”) and fills in some of the blanks left by the statute. There are a few notable quirks, however.

Background on the “Rip and Replace” Program

In general, the Secure Networks Act and the FCC’s rules are intended to remove from America’s communications networks equipment that has been determined to constitute a threat to the security of communications. The Secure Networks Act prohibits the use of Universal Service Fund (“USF”) support to purchase “covered” communications equipment or services. It also directs the FCC to establish a reimbursement program for costs incurred by Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (“ETCs”) – carriers determined to be eligible to receive USF support – to remove and replace covered equipment and services. The determinations regarding the equipment covered by this ban are made by a group of federal security agencies including the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the National Intelligence Director. These initial determinations, to no one’s surprise, included Chinese manufacturers Huawei, ZTE, and a handful of other Chinese companies. The roster of suspect (“covered”) equipment can change over time as new threats are detected. The federal government is already removing this equipment from its own networks, but there is still a large amount of equipment being used in privately owned telecom networks. The problem affects smaller carriers disproportionally since smaller carriers were enticed by the low prices and attractive financing offered by the Chinese companies. Continue Reading

Enforcement Bureau Cracks Down on Properties Allowing Pirate Radio 

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Enforcement Bureau released three Notices of Illegal Pirate Radio Broadcasting to multiple New York City-based property managers for housing an unlicensed radio broadcasting operation. In conjunction with the notices, the FCC issued an Order – without the typical notice and comment procedures – implementing the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act (“PIRATE Act”) and specifying the new elements of this enforcement regime.   Continue Reading

Now Available: NETA Webinar Series

Over the last few weeks, attorneys Bob Winteringham, Dan Kirkpatrick, and Frank Montero have presented a series of compliance webinars for the National Education Telecommunications Association  as a part of their course entitled “Navigating Common Compliance Matter,” which covered important compliance topics for broadcast stations.  

Those webinar topics include:

  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting compliance
  • Navigating the Online Public File
  • Equal Employment Opportunity compliance
  • Underwriting Rules
  • How to Design a Compliance Program

These are extremely helpful educational videos for any public media organization. You can enroll for the free course and watch the webinars here.

Selected New Developments in Broadband – December

Capitol Hill

What will happen in broadband under a Biden Administration is at the top of everyone’s agenda. While we expect a large infrastructure/stimulus package (to include broadband) in the first 100 days, precise details are yet to emerge.

Turning to the lame duck session, emergency broadband funding as part of COVID relief and/or the government funding bill remains possible. Also, on November 24, 2020 two Republican Congressman introduced the Enabling Extra Time to Extend Network Deployment (EXTEND) Act that would allow unexpended CARES Act funding to be utilized by states for broadband connectivity. We have previously highlighted the bi-partisan Internet Exchange Act of 2019 (sponsored by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)) which would create a grant program administered by NTIA to build or expand internet exchange facilities in areas where either one or none exist. The bill also would enable E-Rate and Rural Telehealth Program USF funds to be used for connection to exchange facilities. The bill was marked up in Committee on November 18. Continue Reading