October regulatory dates for broadcasters: license renewals, broadcast ownership filings, quarterly number / program listings, rule-making comment dates and more
As we move into the final quarter of the year, the October broadcasters calendar is filled with important dates and regulatory deadlines. We share some of these dates below and urge you to stay in close contact with your lawyers, engineers and consultants for the dates and timeframes applicable to your station operations.
By October 1, the radio stations of Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Mariana Islands, Oregon and Washington and TV channels from Iowa and Missouri must submit their license renewal request. Pay close attention to the contents of your online public record and ensure that all required documents are complete and have been uploaded on time. Stations that file their renewals (other than LPFMs) are also required to file a Broadcast EEO Program Report (Form FCC 2100, Annex 396), Submit two years of EEO public record reports for review by the FCC, unless your employment unit employs less than 5 full-time employees. As you put the finishing touches on your applications, be sure to read the instructions for the license renewal application (radio, TV) and consult a lawyer if you have any questions.
Also by October 1, for all radio and television station employment units with five or more full-time licensed employees in communities of Iowa, Missouri, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Mariana Islands, Oregon and Washington must upload in their online public inspection file a Annual report of the OEE’s public inspection file covering their hiring and employment awareness activities for October 1, 2020 until September 30, 2021. These broadcasters Not only should they download the report to their online public file, they should also post on their station’s website home page (if they have one) a link to the most recent report.
It is time again for full power and class A broadcasters to download lists of quarterly numbers / programs to their station’s public file. These lists, which must be downloaded by October 10, aim to identify the issues of importance to the station community and the programs the station aired in July, August and September that addressed these issues. Prepare the lists with care and precision, as they are the only official documents on how a station serves the public and meets the needs and interests of its community. Timely uploading of these listings to the station’s online public file is especially important during the television and radio license renewal cycle, when FCC personnel closely review the contents of the public files (warnings and same fines for filed late and faded away lists have become more common during the license renewal cycle). See our article here to learn more about this obligation.
The window during which broadcasters must submit their biennial property reports opens on October 1st. This mandatory biennial filing is intended to provide an overview of the ownership of broadcasting stations as of October 1, 2021. Broadcasters have until December 1 to complete and file these reports. Since the LMS rating system is operational, broadcasters should not expect the FCC to extend the deadline as it has in the past due to technical issues. A free information session will be held by the FCC on October 5 for anyone interested in knowing more about filling out the form and filing the report.
In October, there will be plenty of opportunities to comment on the FCC’s proposals for changes to various rules. As we wrote on here, the FCC has asked interested parties media ownership issues to refresh the file that was established during the Quadrennial report 2018. This review was never finalized, so the FCC wants to know how the media landscape has changed since comments were requested at the launch of the review. The issues include possible changes to local radio ownership rules and to rules restricting common ownership of more than one of the four major television stations in a television market. Read the comments that have been submitted, here, and get your respond to comments by October 1.
After a busy 2020 election season and ahead of the 2022 election, the FCC proposed two minor changes to its political advertising rules. The FCC proposes to add the use of social media and building a campaign website to the list of activities that can be taken into account to determine whether a person posing as a written candidate has made a “substantial display“Of an application and is a”legally qualified” candidate. This designation of a “legally qualified” candidate is important because it allows the candidate to avail himself of the advantages and protections of the political broadcasting rules, including equal opportunity, lowest unit rates and, for federal candidates, reasonable access to purchase advertising time on commercial broadcast stations. The second change would harmonize the FCC’s rules with the Communications Act and spell out the requirement that stations upload to their policy files any ad time requests that “”communicates a message relating to any political issue of national importance” (that is to say, Federal issue announcements). We wrote more about these proposed rule changes, here. Comments are due by October 1 and response comments are due by October 18.
The FCC accepts comments via October 7 on the accessibility of children’s educational programs to children with disabilities. The FCC is researching, among other things, information on the extent to which abridged programming and regular weekly programming broadcast on multicast streams are captioned and / or audio described, along with data on the amount of such programming. More generally, the FCC wishes to be kept informed of any changes in the broadcasting industry since adopting revised children’s programming rules that have affected the accessibility of “kidvid” programming. Reply comments are due by November 8.
There are also important October dates for broadcasters seeking reimbursement for technical changes mandated by the FCC. Full-power, Class A TV stations that transitioned during Phases 0 through 5 of the TV Band Incentive Auction Repackage have up to October 8 submit all others invoices and vouchers on Form 399 for Broadcaster Relocation Fund Reimbursement. Any station reconditioned in these phases that does not meet this deadline will be excluded from the refund program, and its available refund funds will be returned to the fund for use by other entities. More information is available in the public notice, here.
The FCC released in July a list of C-band earth station antennas who would be inactive. The owners of these antennas, if they are actually active, have up to 21st of October to notify the FCC of their operational status, failing which these authorizations will be terminated and removed from the list of earth stations in place. The FCC has also ordered antenna owners, if the list is correct and the antenna is inactive, to file a request to remove these antennas from the International Bureau’s filing system. More details are available in the public notice, here. Inactive earth stations will not be eligible for reimbursement of costs incurred for the C-band reallocation.
As for early November dates, response comments on the FCC’s proposal to bring back FCC Form 395-B are due November 1 (initial comments are due by September 30). After 20 years, improving data collection on equal employment opportunities could once again be a reality for broadcasters. Form 395-B was an annual report intended to collect information on the race and gender of broadcast workers, rejected by the courts over fears of unconstitutional use of data to force broadcasters to make hiring decisions based on of these factors. We wrote more about the possible resurrection of the 395-B form, here..
Between 12:01 a.m. EST on November 2 and 6 p.m. EST on November 9, the FCC accept building permit applications for the operation of new non-commercial educational FM stations in the reserved band (88.1 to 91.9 on the FM dial). We wrote more about the application process and the ten application limit, here. Entities that plan to apply for a building permit should now work with their engineers and consultants to put all the parts in place, including technical proposals and a presentation under the “point systemWhich allows the FCC to choose between mutually exclusive applications. More details about the repository will be released closer to window opening on November 2.
October and early November are a busy time for owners and operators of broadcasting stations. Note these dates and deadlines on your calendar and check with your resort advisers to find out the other dates applicable to your operations.