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3/25/2010
Amendments must be filed by May 24, 2010. A $705 filing fee is required.

The FCC released a Public Notice today identifying several hundred pending applications for new analog LPTV or TV Translator stations that must be amended to specify digital operation. A copy of the FCC public notice is available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-10-496A1.pdf. The Public Notice indicates that applications that are not amended will not be processed. The amendments must be filed electronically, along with a filing fee of $705.00 per application. Most of the listed applications were filed in a window held in 2000 and were filed in paper. The deadline to amend these applications is May 24, 2010.

The Public Notice states that this action is being taken in furtherance of the nationwide transition to digital television. However, the staff’s National Broadband Plan released last week urged the FCC to set a dead¬line by which all analog LPTV and TV Translator stations must convert to digital operation. This action appears to be a first step in that process. Accordingly, LPTV and TV Translator stations should be alert to the possibility of a further Public Notice establishing a similar transition requirement for existing stations.

A PDF version of this article can be found at Pending Applications for New Analog Low Power Television and TV Translator Stations Must Be Amended to Specify Digital Operation.

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In the latest chapter of what seems like a never ending saga of the Commission’s effort to adopt new ownership rules, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently lifted its stay of the FCC’s revised cross-ownership rules adopted in 2007, which immediately allows the FCC to presume that common ownership of a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the Top 20 television markets is in the public interest. The Court’s decision, for the first time since 1975, effectively allows the common ownership of a full-power broadcast station and a daily newspaper in the same geographic market.
In 2003, the Chairman Powell-led Commission undertook what was ultimately a highly controversial review of all of its broadcast ownership rules. With respect to newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule, the Commission concluded that newspapers and broadcast stations do not compete in the same economic market and that continuation of the cross-ownership ban made no sense except in the smallest markets. Before the re-write of the broadcast rules took effect, it was challenged by various parties in the Third Circuit. The Court, in the well-known Prometheus Radio Project decision, stayed the effectiveness of the re-written rules. Despite the stay, the Court actually agreed with the Commission that a blanket ban on broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership was no longer warranted, so the Court remanded the FCC’s ownership limits back to the agency for further justification.
In response to the Court’s order, the Commission in 2007, this time led by Chairman Martin, once again decided that a complete newspaper/broadcast cross ownership ban did not make sense. It fashioned a rule that presumed that waiver of the ban is waived in the public interest in certain limited circumstances. The FCC said that it would review combinations involving a daily newspaper and either one radio station or one television station in the Top 20 markets on a case-by-case basis, and presume that they were in the public interest, so long as, in the case of television/newspaper combinations, the television station was not a Top-4 ranked station, and at least 8 independent “major media voices” would remain in the market. Combinations in markets outside of the Top 20 would be presumed to not be in the public interest, unless a showing could be made that overcame the presumption.

Again, before that rule could take effect, it was appealed and the Third Circuit continued to stay it. When the leadership of the FCC changed again in 2009, the new Chairman Genachowski-led Commission told the Court that relaxation of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban adopted by the previous Martin-led Commission does not necessarily reflect the view of a majority of the current Commission. The leadership also asked the Court to continue to hold off ruling on the Martin Commission’s version of the rule until this Commission could complete its Congressionally-mandated review of the broadcast ownership rules in 2010. Despite that request, the Court lifted its stay and ordered that initial briefs in connection with the Martin Commission revisions to its ownership rules be filed by May 17, 2010.

As a result, the FCC’s relaxed newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule adopted in 2007 is now in effect. Broadcast/newspaper combinations can now be reviewed and granted on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the standard described above. However, before trying to enter into a new cross-ownership combination, interested parties should keep in mind that the current Commission is on record as being wary of the Martin-era version of the rule, so any hope that the current Commission is in a hurry to review any proposed combos might be misplaced. They should also realize that the Martin-era rule is subject to the Third Circuit’s review, and that it is unclear precisely how, and when (if ever), this rule’s more than thirty-five year saga will end.

Published on:

3/22/2010
Businesses dependent on spectrum should be alert to FCC trend toward greater frequency sharing and incumbent dislocation.

Introduction
The FCC’s staff has released its long-awaited National Broadband Plan (“NBP”). As expected, the NBP includes controversial proposals to reclaim 120 MHz of spectrum from television broadcasters. Another spectrum reallocation, involving microwave spectrum that would impact broadcasters in their use of Broadcast Auxiliary Service spectrum, has received less attention. So too has the NBP’s overall approach to spectrum reallocations, which represents a sea change in the way the FCC manages spectrum. This new approach focuses on unlicensed and flexible uses of spectrum, placing all spectrum allocations on a three-year cycle for scrutiny and possible reallocation to “more valuable” uses.

The NBP, then, serves as a roadmap for future reallocations. Careful review of the mechanics of the specific reallocations the NBP proposes for the immediate future reveal the extent to which its authors seek to change long-established service rules for each spectrum band in order to free spectrum for other uses. This Advisory provides that review so that spectrum users, both those who are immediately affected by the NBP and those whose spectrum has not yet been surveyed by the FCC, can better understand the likely impact of such changes.

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March 2010
This Broadcast Station EEO Advisory is directed to radio and television stations licensed to communities in: Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, and highlights the upcoming deadlines for compliance with the FCC’s EEO Rule.

Introduction
April 1, 2010 is the deadline for broadcast stations licensed to communities in the States/Territories referenced above to place their Annual EEO Public File Report in their public inspection files and post the report on their website, if they have one. In addition, certain of these stations, as detailed below, must electronically file their EEO Mid-term Report on FCC Form 397 by April 1, 2010.

Under the FCC’s EEO rule, all radio and television station employment units (“SEUs”), regardless of staff size, must afford equal employment opportunity to all qualified persons and practice nondiscrimination in employment.

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March 17, 2010
Pillsbury invites you to join a conference call on Wednesday, March 24 at 2 p.m. to discuss the broadcast spectrum changes proposed in the National Broadband Plan.

The National Broadband Plan (“NBP”) proposes immediate and sweeping steps that, if adopted, could displace many television broadcasters from their existing spectrum. Specifically, FCC staff proposes a “voluntary” surrender by some television broadcasters of their spectrum as well as repacking of the spectrum to minimize the portion dedicated to television broadcasting. An expected flood of FCC proceedings and possible surprises still to play out are likely to keep television broadcasters playing catch-up. The growth of both broadband and broadcasting are not necessarily incompatible goals if the proper mechanisms are put in place. However, the current version of the NBP places the broadcast industry in a defensive position by assuming that broadband can only grow by displacing television broadcasters.

To register and receive the conference telephone number and password, please contact Liliam Aguila. Capacity is limited. Article continues — the full article can be found at National Broadband Plan Proposes Significant Challenges for Television Broadcasters.

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March 2010
The next Quarterly Issues/Programs List (“Quarterly List”) must be placed in stations’ local public inspection files by April 10, 2010, reflecting information for the months of January, February and March, 2010.

Content of the Quarterly List
The FCC requires each broadcast station to air a reasonable amount of programming responsive to significant community needs, issues, and problems as determined by the station. The FCC gives each station the discretion to determine which issues facing the community served by the station are the most significant and how best to respond to them in the station’s overall programming.

To demonstrate a station’s compliance with this public interest obligation, the FCC requires a station to maintain, and place in the public inspection file, a Quarterly List reflecting the “station’s most significant programming treatment of community issues during the preceding three month period.” By its use of the term “most significant,” the FCC has noted that stations are not required to list all responsive programming, but only that programming which provided the most significant treatment of the issues identified.

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March 2010
The next Children’s Television Programming Report must be filed with the FCC and placed in stations’ local Public Inspection Files by April 10, 2010, reflecting programming aired during the months of January, February and March 2010.

Statutory and Regulatory Requirements
As a result of the Children’s Television Act of 1990 and the FCC Rules adopted under the Act, full power and Class A television stations are required, among other things, to: (1) limit the amount of commercial matter aired during programs originally produced and broadcast for an audience of children 12 years of age and younger; and (2) air programming responsive to the educational and informational needs of children 16 years of age and younger.

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March 2010
The FCC has suspended indefinitely the deadline for commercial radio and television stations to file their Biennial Ownership Reports. However, the deadlines for filing Biennial Ownership Reports by noncommercial educational radio and television stations remain in effect, tied to their respective anniversary renewal filing deadlines.

Noncommercial educational radio stations licensed to communities in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, and noncommercial educational television stations licensed to communities in Texas, must file their Biennial Ownership Reports by April 1, 2010.

Last year, the FCC issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments on, among other things, whether the Commission should adopt a single national filing deadline for all noncommercial educational radio and television broadcast stations like the one that the FCC has established for all commercial radio and television stations. That proceeding remains pending without decision. As a result, noncommercial educational radio and television stations continue to be required to file their biennial ownership reports every two years by the anniversary date of the station’s license renewal filing.

A PDF version of this article can be found at Biennial Ownership Reports Are Due by April 1, 2010 for Noncommercial Educational Radio Stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, and for Noncommercial Educational Television Stations in Texas.

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The 2010 NAB Show in Las Vegas is fast approaching! Your Pillsbury attorneys, including Dick Zaragoza, Cliff Harrington, Scott Flick, Miles Mason, Laurie Lynch Flick, Paul Cicelski and Christine Reilly will be at this annual event, which takes place in just one month, from April 10th to the 15th. We look forward to meeting and talking with our clients and friends at the show. We will be staying at The Bellagio (702-693-7111), and if you plan to attend the NAB Show and would like to see us, please contact Julia Colish in our office. Ms. Colish can be reached via e-mail (julia.colish@pillsburylaw.com) or by telephone at (202) 663-8261.

We look forward to seeing you at the NAB Show.

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This Advisory provides a review of the FCC’s political broadcasting regulations.

Introduction
Eight years after adoption of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (“BCRA”) of 2002, popularly known as “McCain-Feingold,” Congress’ and the FCC’s interest in political broadcasting and political advertising practices remains undiminished. Broadcast stations must insure that a broad range of federal mandates are met, providing “equal opportunities” to all candidates using the stations facilities, affording federal candidates for public office “reasonable access” and treating all candidates for public office no less favorably than the station treats its most favored advertisers. Accordingly, it is imperative that broadcasters be very familiar with what is expected of them in this regulatory area, that they have adequate policies and practices in place to insure full compliance, and that they remain vigilant to legislative, FCC, and FEC changes in the law.

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