What are the key regulatory items of note for broadcasters that they should keep their eye on in 2018?
The team at Pillsbury Withrop Shaw Pittman LLP has put together a 2018 Broadcasters’ Calendar that includes 10 top items of note.
What’s the top item of interest for Pillsbury?
New TV Spectrum Repack Filing Deadlines is the biggest regulatory topic for the law firm.
As of today, all full power and Class A television stations that are being repacked are required to electronically file FCC Form 2100, Schedule 387 Transition Progress Reports, on a quarterly basis.
By the tenth day following each quarter, each transitioning station must inform the FCC and the public of the station’s steps toward constructing facilities for its new channel and ending operations on its current channel. This reporting requirement ceases when the station has finished its transition and has filed a final report indicating that fact. Transitioning stations have been assigned to one of 10 successive transition phases, each with its own timeline governing when the station may begin testing on its new channel and must cease operations on its pre-auction channel.
In addition to these quarterly reports, these stations must file progress reports ten weeks before the end of their assigned construction deadline, ten days after completion of all work related to constructing their post-repack facilities, and five days after ceasing operations on their pre-auction channel.
TRANSLATOR WINDOW NO. 2
The second-biggest 2018 calendar item for Pillsbury is the second Cross-Service FM Translator Window, which is scheduled for January 25-31.
That’s the narrow time frame for Class A and B AM stations seeking new FM translators to rebroadcast their stations.
This window is available to AM stations that did not participate in the 2016 FM translator modification windows or the 2017 cross-service FM translator auction filing window. Translator licenses obtained through this window will be permanently tied to the applying AM station.
ONLINE INSPECTION FILE
By March 1, noncommercial educational radio stations and commercial radio stations in the Top 50 Nielsen audio markets with less than five full-time employees must complete the uploading of their public inspection file to the FCC’s online file.
Those in this “last wave” of stations moving their public files online do not have to upload their Political File by this date, but must at a minimum commence uploading their Political File documents to the FCC’s online public file on a going-forward basis.
Stations that do not opt to upload their entire Political File by March 1 must continue to maintain a local “paper” Political File for pre-March 1 documents until the online Political File contains at least two years of material (the Political File document retention period).
THE BIENNIAL OWNERSHIP REPORT
In 2016, the FCC adopted a new consolidated Biennial Ownership Report filing deadline of December 1 of odd-numbered years for all commercial and noncommercial broadcast stations. To accommodate the rollout of the new Licensing Management System (LMS), the FCC announced it would push back the 2017 filing deadline to March 2.
All 2017 reports must reflect the ownership of the station as of October 1, 2017.
Commercial broadcast stations must file FCC Form 323 (Ownership Report for
Commercial Broadcast Stations), and noncommercial stations must file FCC Form 323-E (Ownership Report for Noncommercial Broadcast Stations).
NCE FUNDRAISING REPORTING
The quarterly reporting of Noncommercial Educational Station Fundraising for Third Parties is another big topic of importance for Pillsbury.
In 2017, the FCC modified its rules to permit noncommercial stations that do not receive funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to conduct, subject to various restrictions, on-air fundraising for certain third-party non-profit organizations.
As part of this rule change, the FCC requires that a station engaging in such fundraising place information on these activities in the station’s public inspection file on a quarterly basis, starting with reports for Q4 2017.
These quarterly reports must include the date, time, duration, type of activity, name of the benefitting non-profit organization, and a brief description of the cause or project. Insofar as the station helped to tally or received any funds for the non-profit group, the station must also provide an approximation of the total funds raised.
What are the other big five items broadcasters should mark on their calendars now?
The Non-Textual Audible Crawl Rule goes into effect.
In 2013, the FCC adopted the “Audible Crawl Rule,” which requires emergency information provided visually during non-newscast video programming to be made aurally accessible through a secondary audio stream. Barring a further deadline extension, on May 26 this requirement will be extended to also include inherently visual information, such as radar maps or other graphic displays, marking the expiration of temporary waivers for such materials granted in 2015 and 2016.
Meanwhile, Q1 2018 will likely see the FCC opening a 30-day Special Displacement Window for LPTV, TV Translator, and analog-to-digital replacement translator stations to file displacement applications. Only stations deemed “operating” on April 13 will be eligible. A station can apply during this window if it is displaced by a full-power or Class A TV station being repacked in Channels 2 through 36 or by new flexible uses in the repurposed 600 MHz band.
Here’s something TV broadcasters will need to take note of: By July 1, commercial broadcast television stations in the top 60 Nielsen television markets that carry ABC, CBS, Fox, or NBC programming must increase their video-described programming from 50 hours per quarter to 87.5 hours per quarter.
Lastly, the FCC is considering a proposal that would modify the requirement that television stations file FCC Form 2100, Schedule G (the DTV Ancillary/Supplementary Services Report) each Dec. 1 by instead requiring only TV stations that have provided feeable ancillary or supplementary services in the past year to file.
As Dec. 1, 2018 approaches, stations should check to see if the requirement has indeed
been modified prior to preparing their 2018 report.
Lastly, the three-year long license renewal cycle for radio stations, which ended in 2014, will not begin again until after New Year’s Eve 2018 — on June 1, 2019. The license renewal cycle for broadcast stations in the television services (fullpower television, Class A, LPTV, TV Translator), ended in 2015 and will not begin again until June 1, 2020.