March 2012 Archives

FCC Enforcement Monitor

Scott R. Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted March 30, 2012

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes:

  • A discussion of a number of forfeitures issued by the FCC fining individuals up to $25,000 for operating unlicensed radio stations.
FCC Sends Warning to Unlicensed Radio Operators

The FCC has recently been taking an active stance against unlicensed radio operations, as further evidenced by four recently issued penalties for violations of the Communications Act. Radio stations operating without a license should take this as a warning of future enforcement actions against such illegal operations.

In the first two instances involving the same individual in San Jose, California, the Enforcement Bureau issued two separate Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture ("NAL") for $25,000 each to the operator for unlicensed broadcasting on various FM band frequencies and for a failure to allow inspection of an unlicensed broadcast station. After several months, the operator failed to respond to either of the NALs. As a result, the Enforcement Bureau issued the two $25,000 Forfeiture Orders against the individual.

In a second case, a Florida man was found apparently liable for $15,000 for operating an unlicensed FM radio transmitter in Miami. In September 2011, the Enforcement Bureau, following up on a complaint lodged by a national telecommunications carrier, discovered two antennas used for unlicensed operations on the frequency 88.7 MHz on the roof of a building. During the site visit, the building's owner indicated that the equipment was located in a rooftop suite rented by a tenant. The Enforcement Bureau agents left a hand-delivered Notice of Unlicensed Operations ("NOUO") with the building owner, who indicated that he would deliver the NOUO to the tenant. On three subsequent occasions, agents from the Miami Field Office determined that the antennas in question were the source of radio frequency transmissions in excess of the limits of Part 15 of the FCC's rules, therefore requiring a license for operation.

When the agents were finally able to interview the tenant, he admitted to owning the transmitter and operating the station. He also stated that he had been employed as a disc jockey for a station previously authorized to operate on 88.7 and was "aware he needed a license to operate the station."

The base forfeiture amount under the FCC's rules for operation without an authorization is $10,000. In this case, the FCC concluded that a $5,000 upward adjustment of the NAL was warranted because the operator was aware that his operations were unlawful prior to and after receipt of the NOUO.

Though the FCC issued the multiple hefty penalties for unlicensed operations described above, the FCC was ultimately more sympathetic to a third unlicensed operator. In September 2011, the Enforcement Bureau's San Juan Office issued a NAL against the operator of an unlicensed radio transmitter in Guayama, Puerto Rico for $15,000. In response to the NAL, the operator argued that he believed his broadcast operations were legal, and he submitted financial information to support the claim that he was unable to pay the full amount of the NAL. Though the FCC affirmed its claims that the operator willfully violated the FCC's rules, the FCC nevertheless lowered the fine to $1,500 due to the operator's inability to pay.

After issuing multiple fines against unlicensed operators this month, the FCC is likely to continue issuing similar penalties in the future. Radio operators should be mindful of the equipment used in their operations and the signal levels transmitted during operations to avoid facing similar consequences.

Online or Out of Line? FCC Requests Copies of Entire Public Files

Scott R. Flick

Posted March 29, 2012

By Scott R. Flick

As the FCC's proceeding to require television stations to place their public inspection files (including their political files) online heats up, life is becoming strange for a number of television stations around the country. In a move presumably connected with the online public file proceeding, FCC inspectors have appeared at television stations in several markets and demanded that the stations provide them with a complete copy of their entire public inspection files within 48 hours or less. Given that most public files are measured in yards, not feet, of paper, there are a lot of broadcast employees burning the midnight oil trying to comply.

But why such a strange and burdensome request? If the FCC wanted to merely determine whether a station's file is complete, it can just look at the original file during its visit to the station--it doesn't need its own copy. Besides, the fact that a document is missing from the duplicates provided to the FCC would be weak evidence that the station's actual file is defective, since it would hardly be surprising if a few documents failed to get copied in this highly rushed process.

Alternatively, if the FCC were doing an in-depth audit of a specific portion of the file (for example, the EEO section) which is difficult to thoroughly review while at the station, FCC personnel could request copies of just that portion of the file. In asking for a copy of the entire file, it appears that the FCC is not particularly interested in the substance of those copies, but in how quickly the station can produce them (particularly since there appears to be no massive emergency file review going on at the FCC actually requiring rapid access to copies of the entire file).

While this would seem bizarre any place outside of Washington (well, it's bizarre here too, but you get used to that after a while), the FCC has been on the receiving end of numerous comments and declarations from broadcasters noting how large the public inspection file has become, and how burdensome and time-consuming it would be to require stations to scan the entire contents of it for the sake of posting it online. Broadcasters have argued that this burden is hard to justify given that very few members of their local communities have ever expressed the slightest interest in seeing the public file, online or otherwise.

While scanning and posting the content of a public file online will obviously be far more time consuming than just making copies of it, these recent events may suggest that the FCC considers them sufficiently analogous to attempt to prove a point--that scanning every document in a public file is not as time-consuming as many broadcasters have claimed, and is therefore not a fatal flaw in the online file proposal, either from a public interest or Paperwork Reduction Act perspective. Or, the Commission may think broadcasters are bluffing about the size of their public files, and want to prove that they are really not as extensive as claimed. Apparently, the FCC has not realized just how many station renewal applications remain pending for years after filing due to indecency and other complaints, requiring stations to maintain data in their files even longer than usual.

Unfortunately, the affected broadcasters are now caught in the middle, and face a conundrum: attempt to move heaven and earth in an effort to meet the FCC's seemingly arbitrary deadline, or risk being accused by the FCC of failing to provide the requested information by the deadline set by the FCC (or both, for the many stations that pull out all stops and still have no hope of meeting the FCC's stated deadline). Particularly ironic of course is that stations that manage to pull it off in anything close to that time frame may well have that fact presented to them as the very reason why it is not unduly burdensome to have them repeat the process when posting their file online.

As a broadcaster, the obvious thing to do when the FCC may be coming to your door is to make sure that your public inspection file is complete and up to date. However, if the actual point of this exercise is not to look at the substance of what stations produce, but at how fast they can produce it, then these unfortunate stations have been tasked with the regulatory equivalent of a snipe hunt.

Glenn Richards of Pillsbury to Speak on VoIP Regulation, at Cloud Communications Alliance Meeting, March 27, Las Vegas, NV

March 27, 2012

Glenn S. Richards of Pillsbury will speak at this event which takes place from 11:15 to 12:00 pm at Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas. Glenn will report on legal and regulatory issues facing our industry on behalf of the Cloud Communications Alliance Regulatory Committee.

For additional details and to register, please click here.

Revamped EAS Rules Go Into Effect April 23

Paul A. Cicelski

Posted March 22, 2012

By Paul A. Cicelski

Earlier today, the FCC's Fifth Report and Order revising the Part 11 EAS Rules and codifying the obligation that EAS Participants be able to process alert messages formatted in the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) was published in the Federal Register. As a result of today's Federal Register publication, the primary rule changes adopted by the FCC in the Order will be effective April 23, 2012.

If you recall from my previous posts on the matter found here and here, the main focus of the FCC's Order was to specify the manner in which EAS Participants must be able to receive CAP-formatted alert messages and to clarify the FCC's Part 11 Rules. Among other things, the FCC took the following actions in its Order:

  • It required EAS Participants to be able to convert CAP-formatted EAS messages into messages that comply with the EAS Protocol requirements, following the conversion procedures described in the EAS-CAP Industry Group's (ECIG's) Implementation Guide;
  • It required EAS Participants to monitor FEMA's IPAWS system for federal CAP-formatted alert messages using whatever interface technology is appropriate;
  • It adopted rules to generally allow EAS Participants to use "intermediary devices" to meet CAP requirements;
  • It required EAS Participants to use the enhanced text in CAP messages to meet the video display requirements; and
  • It adopted streamlined procedures for equipment certification that take into account standards and testing procedures adopted by FEMA.

Although the FCC's new rules will be on the books as of next month, EAS Participants actually have until June 30, 2012 to install the equipment necessary to receive and convert CAP-formatted EAS alerts. When this deadline hits, five years or so of FCC CAP-related FCC decisions will come to a close. But don't worry, the FCC and FEMA have already indicated that CAP is only the beginning of the digital emergency alert era and that more proceedings related to the so-called "next generation" of emergency alerting, including improving the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), will likely be coming soon. Stay tuned.

Retransmission Without an Agreement Is an Expensive Mistake

Scott R. Flick

Posted March 19, 2012

By Scott R. Flick

As those who follow our interactive calendar are aware, I spoke last week as a representative of broadcasters on a retransmission panel at the American Cable Association Annual Summit. The ACA's membership is predominantly smaller cable system operators, and because of that, the ACA has been very vocal in Washington regarding its displeasure with the current state of retransmission law.

While broadcasters are understandably tired of being paid less per viewer than cable networks, smaller cable operators feel they are being squeezed in the middle--forced to pay more to retransmit broadcast programming, but unable to free up money for those additional payments by paying cable networks less than the amount to which those networks have become accustomed. While the economics of supply and demand should eventually bring programming fees in line with the attractiveness of that programming to viewers, this process will take some time. In the meantime, as I heard from operator after operator during the panel, they are looking for a much faster solution, and that solution is for the government to step in and by some method guarantee cable operators low-cost access to broadcast signals.

A discussion of the dynamics of retransmission negotiations and policy could easily fill a book, but for the limited purposes of this post, I just want to focus on a particular refrain I heard from cable operators, which is that losing a broadcast network signal for even a short time is devastating to their business, leaving them in a tenuous bargaining position during retransmission negotiations.

The reason this came to mind today is a pair of decisions just released by the FCC which illustrate the temptation for a small cable operator to engage in a little "self-help" to overcome what it perceives as an unfair negotiation. These decisions also illustrate why other cable operators should ensure they never succumb to that temptation. In these decisions (here and here), the FCC issued two Notices of Apparent Liability to the same cable operator for continuing to carry the signals of two broadcasters after the old retransmission agreements with those stations expired and before new retransmission agreements were executed.

The affected broadcasters filed complaints with the FCC, and the cable operator responded that it "does not refute that it retransmitted [the stations] without express, written consent. Rather, [the cable operator] argues that it faced a 'dramatic increase' in requested retransmission consent fees, and states that it receives the signal by antenna rather than satellite or the Internet. [The cable operator] claims that [the broadcaster] is 'using [the Commission] as a tool to negotiate a dramatic increase in rates' and it requests that the Commission require the fair negotiation of a reasonable rate."

After a telephone conference with FCC staff, the parties reached agreement on a new retransmission agreement for each of the stations involved, and the agreements were executed on February 3, 2012. However, the really interesting part of these decisions relates not to how the FCC proceeding arose, but to how the FCC chose to assess proposed forfeitures against the cable operator in the twin Notices of Apparent Liability. The FCC noted that the base forfeiture for carriage of a broadcast station without a retransmission agreement in place is $7,500. Since the cable operator had carried the stations without a retransmission agreement for 34 days, the FCC determined that the base forfeiture for each of the violations was $7,500 x 34, or $255,000. That would make the total base forfeiture for illegally carrying both stations during that time $510,000.

Fortunately for the cable operator, the FCC reviewed the operator's financial data and concluded that a half-million dollar fine "would place the company in extreme financial hardship." The FCC therefore exercised its discretion to reduce the proposed forfeitures to $15,000 each, for a total of $30,000. These decisions certainly demonstrate that no matter how frustrated a cable operator is with retransmission costs, the self-help approach is not a wise path to take.

In fact, the proposed FCC fines are only the beginning of a cable operator's potential liability for illegal retransmission. Not addressed by the FCC in its decisions is the fact that retransmission of a broadcast station without an agreement is a violation of not just the FCC's Rules and the Communications Act of 1934, but also of copyright laws. If the illegally-carried broadcast stations chose to pursue it, they could seek copyright damages against the cable operator, and the proposed FCC fines pale in comparison to the potential copyright damages for illegal retransmission. The Copyright Act authorizes the award of up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each infringement, with each program retransmitted being considered a separate infringement. So, for example, if we assume that each station in these decisions aired 24 programs a day for 34 days, the potential copyright damages for such illegal carriage would be $122,400,000 per station. The potential damages for illegally carrying both stations would therefore be close to a quarter-Billion dollars! While it is very unlikely that a court would impose the maximum damages allowed under the Copyright Act, no cable operator would want to run the risk of being ordered to pay even a tiny fraction of that amount for illegal retransmission.

In short, though cable operators certainly may not like paying retransmission fees for broadcast programming, these decisions make clear that the price of not having a retransmission agreement in place can be far higher.

Copyright Royalty Fee: Monthly Usage Statement of Account Form Due

March 16, 2012

Commercial and noncommercial webcasters and those simulcasting radio programming over the Internet must by this date submit the Monthly Report of Use and Monthly Usage Statement of Account forms to SoundExchange for the month ending January 31, 2012.

Scott Flick of Pillsbury to Speak at the American Cable Association Summit Retransmission Consent Panel, on March 14, 2012

March 14, 2012

Scott R. Flick will speak during this session which takes place on March 14th from 1:45 pm to 3:00 pm at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC.

This panel will address more than 300 independent, small to mid-sized communication providers and vendors serving rural America with cable and IP video and VOIP phone, and broadband internet service.

For more information, contact Rob Shema, 412-889-1657

FCC Declares Open Season on Television License Renewal Applications

Lauren Lynch Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted March 12, 2012

By Lauren Lynch Flick and Christine A. Reilly

The FCC today issued a Public Notice officially launching the television station license renewal cycle. The Public Notice, however, also contains an unusual new request. Specifically, the FCC asks that television station licensees or their counsel log into their accounts in the FCC's Consolidated Database System (CDBS) and update the licensee's and its counsel's contact information using the Account Maintenance function. The FCC will use this information to e-mail stations a reminder that their license renewal application is due. This is a new use of the CDBS system and makes one wonder how else the FCC will be able to use CDBS to communicate with licensees in the future.

Licensees that do not have a CDBS account must create one, since, as the FCC notes, all renewal filings must be made electronically. Licensees creating new accounts, however, must both create the new account and immediately use it to file a Change in Official Mailing Address form, which is found by clicking on the link labeled "Additional non-form Filings." Existing account holders making changes to their contact information must also follow this procedure.

The Public Notice announces that license renewal applications can be filed beginning on May 1, 2012. The first stations to file will be television stations licensed to communities in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, which must begin airing pre-filing announcements starting on April 1, and file their renewal applications by June 1, 2012. We note that even though the FCC has announced that applications can be filed as early as May 1, stations should not file in advance of the schedule for their state, and that full power licensees in the first group of stations will still be airing pre-filing announcements until May 16 and should file their applications after that date.

The FCC's Public Notice also contained some other pointers to jog memories, since most stations have not had to file this particular application in eight years. Specifically, it noted that the obligation to file a renewal application applies to all TV, Class A TV, LPTV, and TV Translator stations (even those that may still be waiting for their last renewal application to be granted), that a Form 396 EEO filing must also be made, and that noncommercial licensees must submit an Ownership Report on Form 323-E as well. Finally, the FCC reminded stations that they will need to respond to a new question which asks them to certify whether their advertising sales contracts have contained a non-discrimination clause since March 14, 2011.

The major point of the Public Notice, though, was unmistakeable. "Failure to recieve a notice does not excuse a licensee from timely compliance with the Commission's license renewal requirements."

We're here to help.

NAB State Leadership Conference and NASBA Winter Meeting: March 12-14 - Washington, DC

March 12, 2012

A Reprieve--and a Lesson--for Class A TV Stations?

Scott R. Flick

Posted March 7, 2012

By Scott R. Flick

I wrote in February about a sudden deluge of nearly identical FCC decisions, all released on the same day, proposing to revoke the Class A status of sixteen LPTV stations for failure to timely file all of their Form 398 children's television reports. While I noted at the time that the affected licensees had done themselves no favors by apparently failing to respond to FCC letters of inquiry, the decisions were still somewhat surprising in that the FCC has traditionally fined Class A stations for rule violations rather than revoked their Class A status. Class A status is important because it provides LPTV stations with protection from being displaced by full-power TV stations, and is now more important than ever, as the recently enacted spectrum auction legislation allows Class A stations both the opportunity to participate in auction revenues, and protection from being eliminated in the broadcast spectrum repacking associated with the auction.

Given the peculiar timing of the FCC's decisions (just days after the spectrum auction legislation became law), the sudden shift from fines to Class A revocation, and the release of sixteen such decisions at the same time, the decisions raise the specter that the FCC may be moving to delete the Class A status of non-compliant stations in order to facilitate clearing broadcast spectrum as cheaply as possible in preparation for the newly-authorized wireless spectrum auction. Within a few days of my post, a number of trade publications picked up on this possibility as well. The result was a lot of Class A stations checking to make sure their regulatory house is in order, and a growing concern in the industry that these decisions might be the leading edge of an FCC effort to clear the way for recovering broadcast spectrum for the planned auction.

While that may still turn out to be the case, I was nonetheless at least somewhat relieved to see a trio of decisions released this morning by the FCC that are largely identical to the February decisions with one big exception--the FCC proposed fining the stations for failing to file all of their children's television reports rather than seeking to revoke their Class A status. Specifically, the FCC proposed fining two of the licensees $13,000 each, and the third licensee $26,000 (because it had two stations that failed to file all of their reports).

Each $13,000 fine consisted of $3000--the base fine for failing to file a required form--and an additional $10,000, which is the base fine for having such documents missing from a station's public file. While a $13,000 fine is painful, particularly for a low power station, loss of Class A status could be far more devastating for these stations, and for Class A stations in general. Setting aside spectrum auction considerations, buyers, lenders and investors will be hesitant to risk their money on Class A stations that could suddenly lose their Class A status, and shortly thereafter be displaced out of existence. Stated differently, those considering buying, lending to, or investing in Class A stations will want to do a thorough due diligence on such stations' rule compliance record before proceeding.

So why did the FCC propose fines for these stations while the sixteen stations in the February decisions were threatened with deletion of their Class A status? Although today's decisions and the February decisions are similar in many respects, there is one big distinction. Unlike the licensees in the February decisions, the licensees named in today's decisions promptly responded to the letters of inquiry sent by the FCC, and upon realizing that they had failed to file all of their children's television reports, belatedly completed and submitted those reports to the FCC. While that didn't stop the FCC from seeking to fine these stations, it does seem to have avoided a reexamination of their Class A status.

While the FCC's February decisions to pursue deletion of Class A status are still a worrisome development for all Class A stations, today's decisions thankfully shed some much needed light on when the FCC is likely to pursue that option, and when it will be satisfied with merely issuing a fine. As I noted in my earlier post, a licensee that fails to promptly respond to a letter from the FCC is living life dangerously, and today's decisions confirm that fact. As a result, Class A stations should continue to make sure that their regulatory house is in order, and if they receive a letter of inquiry from the FCC, should contact their lawyer immediately to timely put forth the best possible response to the FCC.

Spectrum Auction Legislation Becomes Law, But Now What?

Scott R. Flick

Posted March 2, 2012

By Scott R. Flick

Following many months of debate and after trying several potential legislative vehicles, the House and Senate finally enacted spectrum auction legislation as part of the bill to extend payroll tax cuts for another year. It was signed by the President last week, and for those following the process for the past two years, the result was somewhat anticlimactic. That is mostly good news for broadcasters, as the NAB was successful in ensuring that the law contains enough protections for broadcasters to prevent the spectral armageddon that it once appeared broadcasters might face.

Having said that, we can't ignore that there were bodies left out on the legislative battlefield, the most obvious being low power TV and TV translator stations. Under the new law, these stations are not permitted to participate in the spectrum auction, are not protected from being displaced to oblivion in the repacking process, and are not entitled to reimbursement of displacement expenses. It is that last point that may be the most important in rural areas. While it is possible there could be enough post-repacking broadcast spectrum in rural areas for TV translators to survive, they will still need to move off of the nationwide swaths of spectrum the FCC intends to auction to wireless companies. Unfortunately, many if not most TV translator licensees are local and regional entities with minimal financial resources. Telling such a licensee that it needs to move to a new channel, or worse, to a different location to make the new channel work, may be the same as telling it to shut down.

This is particularly true when the sheer quantity of translator facilities that might have to be moved is considered. For example, there are nearly 350 TV translators in Montana alone. Moving even a third of them will be an expensive proposition for licensees whose primary purpose is not profit, but the continued availability of rural broadcast service. Further complicating the picture is the fact that in border states like Montana, protecting spectrum for low power TV and TV translators will inevitably be a very low priority when negotiating a new spectrum realignment treaty with Canada or Mexico to permit reallotment of the band.

While full-power and Class A television stations therefore fared much better in the legislation, for those uninterested in selling their spectrum, spectrum repacking will still not be a pleasant experience. Those of us who endured the repacking process during the DTV transition can attest to how complex and challenging the process can be, and the DTV process had the luxury of fifteen years of planning and execution, as well as a lot more spectrum in the broadcast band with which to work. Having already squeezed the broadcast spectrum lemon pretty hard during the DTV transition, the FCC may find that there isn't much juice left in it for a second go around. That, combined with a much tighter time frame, could make this an even more complex and messy process.

In addition, while it hasn't drawn as much attention as it should have, one other changed factor is that after the DTV transition was completed, the FCC opened up TV "white spaces" (spectrum between allotted broadcast channels) for unlicensed use by technology companies seeking to introduce new products and services requiring spectrum. Having enticed companies into investing many millions of dollars in research and development for these white spaces products and services, eliminating the white spaces during the repacking process (which is the point of repacking) could leave many of these companies out in the cold. This is a particularly likely outcome given that the very markets white spaces companies are interested in--densely populated urban areas--are precisely those areas where the FCC most desperately wants to obtain additional spectrum for wireless, and where available spectrum is already scarce. Like low power TV and TV translator licensees, these white spaces companies are pretty much going to be told to "suck the lemon" and hope there are a few drops of spectrum left for them after the repacking.

Still, while there certainly are some obstacles to overcome, the DTV transition gave the FCC staff priceless experience in navigating a repacking, and the FCC already has ample experience auctioning off spectrum. The question is whether this particular undertaking is so vast as to be unmanageable, or whether quick but careful planning can remove most of the sharp edges. Once again, the devil will be in the details, and no one envies the FCC with regard to the task it has before it. However, the chance for an optimal outcome will be maximized if all affected parties engage the FCC as it designs the process. In addition to hopefully producing a workable result for the FCC, broadcasters engaged in the process can ensure that the result is good not just for broadcasters in general, but for their particular stations.

For those interested in getting an advance view of what specifically is involved, Harry Jessell of TVNewsCheck recently interviewed our own John Hane to discuss some of the pragmatic issues facing the FCC and the broadcast industry in navigating the spectrum auction landscape. The transcript of the interview can be found here. John's comments provide additional detail on the tasks facing the FCC, as well as how long the process will likely take.

While everyone impacted by the spectrum auction and repacking process faces many uncertainties as to its outcome, of this we can be certain: challenging times lay ahead.

Pre-Filing and Post-Filing License Renewal Announcement Reminder for TV Stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington DC

Scott R. Flick Lauren Lynch Flick

Posted March 1, 2012

By Lauren Lynch Flick and Scott R. Flick

March 2012

TV, Class A TV, LPTV, and TV translator stations licensed to communities in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington DC must begin airing pre-filing license renewal announcements on April 1, 2012. License renewal applications for these stations are due by June 1, 2012.

Pre-Filing License Renewal Announcements

Stations in the video services that are licensed to communities in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington DC must file their license renewal applications by June 1, 2012.

Beginning two months prior that filing, full power TV, Class A TV, and LPTV stations capable of local origi¬nation must air four pre-filing renewal announcements alerting the public to the upcoming license renewal application filing. These stations must air the first pre-filing announcement on April 1, 2012. The remaining announcements must air on April 16, May 1, and May 16, for a total of four announcements. A sign board or slide showing the licensee's address and the FCC's Washington DC address must be displayed while the pre-filing announcements are broadcast.

For commercial stations, at least two of these four announcements must air between 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm. Locally-originating LPTV stations must broadcast these announcements as close to the above schedule as their operating schedule permits. Noncommercial stations must air the announcements at the same times as commercial stations; however, noncommercial stations need not air any announcements in a month in which the station does not operate. A noncommercial station that will not air some announcements because it is off the air must air the remaining announcements in the order listed above, i.e. the first two must air between 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm.

Article continues . . .

Biennial Ownership Reports are due by April 2, 2012 for Noncommercial Radio Stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, and for Noncommercial Television Stations in Texas

Lauren Lynch Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted March 1, 2012

By Lauren Lynch Flick and Christine A. Reilly

March 2012

The staggered deadlines for filing Biennial Ownership Reports by noncommercial radio and television stations remain in effect and are tied to each station's respective license renewal filing deadline.

Noncommercial radio stations licensed to communities in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, and television stations licensed to communities in Texas must electronically file their Biennial Ownership Reports by April 2, 2012, as the filing deadline of April 1 falls on a Sunday. Licensees must file using FCC Form 323-E, and must place the form as filed in their stations' public inspection files.

In 2009, the FCC issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments on whether the Commission should adopt a single national filing deadline for all noncommercial 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 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 application filing.

A PDF version of this article can be found at Biennial Ownership Reports are due by April 2, 2012 for Noncommercial Radio Stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, and for Noncommercial Television Stations in Texas

Pre-Filing and Post-Filing License Renewal Announcement Reminder for Radio Stations in Michigan and Ohio

Lauren Lynch Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted March 1, 2012

By Lauren Lynch Flick and Christine A. Reilly

March 2012

Full power commercial and noncommercial radio stations and LPFM stations licensed to communities in Michigan and Ohio must begin airing pre-filing license renewal announcements on April 1, 2012. License renewal applications for these stations, and for in-state FM translator stations, are due by June 1, 2012.

Pre-Filing License Renewal Announcements

Full power commercial and noncommercial radio, LPFM, and FM Translator stations whose communities of license are located in Michigan and Ohio must file their license renewal applications with the FCC by June 1, 2012.

Beginning two months prior to that filing, however, full power commercial and noncommercial radio and LPFM stations must air four pre-filing announcements alerting the public to the upcoming renewal application filing. As a result, these radio stations must air the first pre-filing renewal announcement on April 1. The remaining pre-filing announcements must air once a day on April 16, May 1, and May 16, for a total of four announcements. At least two of these four announcements must air between 7:00 am and 9:00 am and/or 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm.

The text of the pre-filing announcement is as follows:

On [date of last renewal grant], [call letters] was granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission to serve the public interest as a public trustee until October 1, 2012. [Stations that have not received a renewal grant since the filing of their previous renewal application should modify the foregoing to read: "(Call letters) is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to serve the public interest as a public trustee."]

Our license will expire on October 1, 2012. We must file an application for renewal with the FCC by June 1, 2012. When filed, a copy of this application will be available for public inspection during our regular business hours. It contains information concerning this station's performance during the last eight years [or other period of time covered by the application, if the station's license term was not a standard eight-year license term].

Individuals who wish to advise the FCC of facts relating to our renewal application and to whether this station has operated in the public interest should file comments and petitions with the Commission by September 1, 2012.

Further information concerning the FCC's broadcast license renewal process is available at [address of location of station's public inspection file] or may be obtained from the FCC, Washington, DC 20554.

Article continues . . .

Broadcast Station EEO Advisory

Lauren Lynch Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted March 1, 2012

By Lauren Lynch Flick and Christine A. Reilly

March 2012

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, 2012 is the deadline for broadcast stations licensed to communities in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas to place their Annual EEO Public File Report in their public inspection files and post the report on stations' websites.

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

In addition, those SEUs with five or more full-time employees ("Nonexempt SEUs") must also comply with the FCC's three-prong outreach requirements. Specifically, all Nonexempt SEUs must (i) broadly and inclusively disseminate information about every full-time job opening except in exigent circumstances, (ii) send notifications of full-time job vacancies to referral organizations that have requested such notifica¬tion, and (iii) earn a certain minimum number of EEO credits, based on participation in various non-vacancy-specific outreach initiatives ("Menu Options") suggested by the FCC, during each of the two-year segments (four segments total) that comprise a station's eight-year license term. These Menu Option initiatives include, for example, sponsoring job fairs, attending job fairs, and having an internship program.

Nonexempt SEUs must prepare and place their Annual EEO Public File Report in the public inspection files and on the websites of all stations comprising the SEU (if they have a website) by the anniversary date of the filing deadline for that station's FCC license renewal application. The Annual EEO Public File Report summarizes the SEU's EEO activities during the previous 12 months, and the licensee must maintain adequate records to document those activities. Stations must also submit the two most recent Annual EEO Public File Reports at the midpoint of their license terms and with their license renewal applications.

Exempt SEUs - those with fewer than 5 full time employees - do not have to prepare or file Annual or Mid-Term EEO Reports.

For a detailed description of the EEO rule and practical assistance in preparing a compliance plan, broad¬casters should consult "Making It Work: A Broadcaster's Guide to the FCC's Equal Employment Opportunity Rules and Policies" published by the Communications Practice Group. This publication is available at: >http://www.pillsburylaw.com/siteFiles/Publications/CommunicationsAdvisoryMay2011.pdf.

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2012 First Quarter Children's Television Programming Documentation

Lauren Lynch Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted March 1, 2012

By Lauren Lynch Flick and Christine A. Reilly

March 2012

The next Children's Television Programming Report must be filed with the FCC and placed in stations' local public inspection files by April 10, 2012, reflecting programming aired during the months of January, February, and March 2012.

On 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.

These two obligations, in turn, require broadcasters to comply with two paperwork requirements Specifically, stations must: (1) place in their public inspection file one of four prescribed types of documentation demonstrating compliance with the commercial limits in children's television, and (2) complete FCC Form 398, which requests information regarding the educational and informational programming the station has aired for children 16 years of age and under. Form 398 must be filed electronically with the FCC and placed in the public inspection file. The base forfeiture for noncompliance with the requirements of the FCC's Children's Television Programming Rule is $10,000.

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2012 First Quarter Issues/Programs List Advisory for Broadcast Stations

Scott R. Flick Christine A. Reilly

Posted March 1, 2012

By Scott R. Flick and Christine A. Reilly

March 2012

The next Quarterly Issues/Programs List ("Quarterly List") must be placed in stations' local inspection files by April 10, 2012, reflecting information for the months of January, February, and March 2012.

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. Article continues . . .