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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published the 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:

  • Failure to File License Renewal Application Results in Cancelled License
  • Call Provider Receives Cease-and-Desist Letter From FCC for Apparently Transmitting Illegal Robocalls
  • New York Broadcaster Agrees to Consent Decree for Violations Relating to the Public Inspection File

Station Owner Unsuccessful in Reinstatement of Cancelled License After Failing to File Renewal Application

In a recent letter, the Audio Division of the FCC’s Media Bureau (the “Bureau”) upheld the cancellation of a Kentucky AM radio station’s license.  The letter follows a 2022 petition for reconsideration filed by the station’s owner that sought, among other things, to reinstate the station’s license after the station failed to file a license renewal application in 2020, while its prior license renewal application from 2012 was still pending.  Section 1.106 of the FCC’s Rules requires petitions for reconsideration in non-rulemaking proceedings, such as license renewal matters, to be filed within thirty days of the date on which public notice is given of a decision.

The station filed a license renewal application in 2012 during the 2011-2014 radio license renewal cycle. Action on that application was withheld while the Enforcement Bureau investigated the station’s compliance with the FCC’s public file rules and because the licensee had not paid regulatory fees and was in “red light” status.  In 2017, the FCC notified the licensee that the Enforcement Bureau had concluded its investigation and directed the licensee to amend the application to reflect the station’s non-compliance with the public file rules and to also clear the red light hold.  The licensee did not amend the application or clear the hold, and the application remained in pending status.

License renewal applications for Kentucky radio stations were next due by April 1, 2020.  In advance of the start of the 2019-2022 radio license renewal cycle, the FCC released a public notice setting out the procedures for stations to follow when filing for renewal of their license.  In that notice, the FCC wrote that “[l]icensees with pending applications from the prior renewal cycle also are subject to [these] filing requirements.”  The station owner did not file a license renewal application by the April 1, 2020 deadline and the station was included in a public notice stating that the station’s license would expire on August 1, 2020, if no renewal application was filed.  On August 6, 2020, the FCC released another public notice—this one stating that the station’s license had been cancelled, and on the same day dismissed the 2012 renewal application but did not release a public notice about that action.  After outreach from the owner’s counsel, Media Bureau staff on March 16, 2022 reinstated and granted the 2012 application, with no explanation for doing so in the public notices that accompanied those actions, but otherwise left the station’s license in cancelled status.

In the petition for reconsideration, the station owner argued that when the Bureau reinstated and granted the 2012 application in 2022, it should have also rescinded the 2020 cancellation of the license.  The owner argued that reinstatement of the 2012 application should have reinstated the license for the station, giving him the opportunity to file the license renewal application that was due in 2020.  The station owner further noted that he was unaware of the 2020 public notice announcing that the station’s license was set to expire and that, in any event, he was not required to file a renewal application in 2020 because the 2012 renewal application was still pending, meaning he did not hold a license with an August 2020 expiration, so no license could have expired at that time. Continue reading →

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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:

  • TV Network Draws Proposed Fine of $504,000 for Transmitting False EAS Tones
  • FCC Cites Equipment Supplier for Marketing Unauthorized Devices
  • FCC Proposes $62 Million Penalty Against Wireless Provider for Excessive Connected Devices Reimbursement Claims

FCC Proposes $504,000 Fine Against TV Network and Its O&O Station Group for EAS Rule Violations

The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) to a TV network and its O&O station group, asserting violations of the Commission’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) rules.  Specifically, the FCC alleged violations of Section 11.45 of its rules, which prohibits the transmission of false or deceptive EAS tones.

The EAS is a nationwide public warning system designed to alert the public in case of emergencies, such as severe weather warnings or AMBER alerts.  In order to maintain the effectiveness of such alerts, EAS tones may only be aired in actual emergencies, authorized tests, and qualified public service announcements (PSAs).  Section 11.45 strictly prohibits airing the EAS tones, or simulations thereof, except in connection with one of these permitted uses.

The FCC received information from several sources alleging that during the television broadcast of a promotional segment in November 2021, the network transmitted EAS tones that were not connected to an emergency, authorized test, or qualified PSA.  In January 2022, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau sent a Letter of Inquiry seeking information regarding the potential violation and requesting, among other things, recordings of the promotional segment.  The network responded, admitting that it aired a three-second excerpt of the EAS Attention Signal, and admitting that it was not aired in connection with any permitted use.

The network also acknowledged that it broadcast the promotional segment over 18 owned-and-operated TV stations and transmitted it to 190 network-affiliated TV stations, as well as transmitted it on its sports radio network, which has a nationwide reach of nearly 15 million listeners.  Based on the network’s admissions and the FCC’s review of the segment, the Commission found that the network willfully violated Section 11.45(a) of the Commission’s Rules in its capacity as a broadcast TV programming network, as the licensee of multiple television stations, and by transmitting the segment via radio stations.  The FCC explained that although it was shorter than the full EAS Tones, the three-second clip used in the segment had the same dual-tone frequency, pitch, and timbre as the actual EAS Tones, and was recognizable by viewers or listeners as substantially similar to the EAS Tones.

Pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 503(b)(2)(A), which governs broadcast station licensees, the FCC is authorized to issue fines of up to $59,316 per violation, but the total amount for a single act may not exceed $593,170.  The FCC noted that while the base fine for violations of the EAS rule is $8,000, it looks at the particular facts of each case and may upwardly adjust that amount based on a number of specific factors, including the number of transmissions at issue, the network’s large nationwide audience reach, the gravity of the violation, the violator’s degree of culpability, ability to pay, and the serious public safety implications of the apparent violation.

Continue reading →

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The FCC announced this afternoon that due to continuing difficulties with its Licensing Management System (“LMS”) and Online Public Inspection File (“OPIF”) filing systems, the deadlines to file or upload a number of documents are being extended.  The new deadline for these documents will be February 28, 2023.

As we previously discussed, the FCC released a Public Notice on January 6, 2023 acknowledging that issues with its OPIF filing system were preventing broadcasters from uploading documents to their Public Files.  In response, the Commission announced an extension of all January 2023 Public File deadlines to January 31, 2023.  That prior announcement left in place the deadlines for: (a) Children’s Television Programming Reports (which are filed in LMS, not in the OPIF), (b) Annual EEO Public File Reports for stations in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Jersey and New York (normally due February 1), and (c) license renewal applications for television stations in New York and New Jersey (normally due February 1).  Today’s announcement not only further extends the deadline for January Public File uploads, but now includes these additional filings in the new extension.

As a result of today’s Public Notice, the deadlines that would normally fall on January 10 for stations to upload Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, on January 30 for television stations to upload Annual Children’s Television Commercial Limits documentation, and on February 1 for stations in the above states to upload Annual EEO Public File Reports to their Public Files are all extended until February 28, 2023.  In addition, the deadlines that would normally fall on January 30 for television stations to file their Annual Children’s Television Programming Reports and on February 1 for television stations in New York and New Jersey to file their license renewal applications in LMS are also extended until the new February 28, 2023 deadline.

Given the technical difficulties that have plagued the OPIF and LMS all month, along with the fact that many broadcasters will be trying to make two months’ worth of FCC filings in the last few days leading up to February 28, broadcasters are well advised to do all that they can to avoid being part of that last minute filing crush.  Of course, that will require the Commission’s filing systems to cooperate.  Stay tuned.

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Full power TV, Class A TV, LPTV, and TV Translator stations licensed to communities in New Jersey and New York must file their license renewal applications by February 1, 2023.

February 1, 2023 is the license renewal application filing deadline for commercial and noncommercial TV broadcast stations licensed to communities in the following states:

Full Power TV, Class A, LPTV, and TV Translator Stations:
New Jersey and New York


The FCC’s state-by-state license renewal cycle began in June 2019 for radio stations and in June 2020 for television stations. TV stations licensed to communities in the respective states listed above should be moving forward with their license renewal preparation. This includes becoming familiar with the requirements for the filing itself, as well as being aware of changes the FCC has made to the public notice procedures associated with the filing (discussed below).

The license renewal application (FCC Form 2100, Schedule 303-S) primarily consists of a series of certifications in the form of Yes/No questions. The FCC advises that applicants should only respond “Yes” when they are certain that the response is correct. Thus, if an applicant is seeking a waiver of a particular rule or policy, or is uncertain that it has fully complied with the rule or policy in question, it should respond “No” to that certification. The application provides an opportunity for explanations and exhibits, so the FCC indicates that a “No” response to any of the questions “will not cause the immediate dismissal of the application provided that an appropriate exhibit is submitted.” An applicant should review any such exhibits or explanations with counsel prior to filing.

When answering questions in the license renewal application, the relevant reporting period is the licensee’s entire 8-year license term. If the licensee most recently received a short-term license renewal, the application reporting period would cover only that abbreviated license term. Similarly, if the license was assigned or transferred via FCC Form 314 or 315 during the license term, the relevant reporting period is just the time since consummation of that last assignment or transfer. Continue reading →

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The deadline to file the 2022 Annual Children’s Television Programming Report with the FCC is January 30, 2023, reflecting programming aired during the 2022 calendar year.  In addition, commercial stations’ documentation of their compliance with the commercial limits in children’s programming during the 2022 calendar year must be placed in their Public Inspection File by January 30, 2023.


The Children’s Television Act of 1990 requires full power and Class A television stations 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 under, and (2) air programming responsive to the educational and informational needs of children 16 years of age and under.  In addition, stations must comply with paperwork requirements related to these obligations.

In 2019, the FCC adopted a number of changes to its children’s television programming rules.  Substantively, the new rules provide broadcasters with additional flexibility in scheduling educational children’s television programming, and modified some aspects of the definition of “core” educational children’s television programming.  Those portions of the revisions went into effect in 2019.  Procedurally, the new rules eliminated quarterly filing of the commercial limits certifications and the Children’s Television Programming Report in favor of annual filings.  Those revisions went into effect in 2020. As a result, the Children’s Television Programming Report and commercial limits documentation filed in 2023 will be the third year that annual filings are submitted. Continue reading →

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February 1 is the deadline for broadcast stations licensed to communities in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma to place their Annual EEO Public File Report in their Public Inspection File and post the report on their station website.  In addition, certain of these stations, as detailed below, must submit their two most recent EEO Public File Reports along with FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 as part of their license renewal applications due by February 1. 

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, Nonexempt SEUs must (i) broadly and inclusively disseminate information about every full-time job opening, except in exigent circumstances,[1] (ii) send notifications of full-time job vacancies to referral organizations that have requested such notification, 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, participating in 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 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.  As discussed below, nonexempt SEUs must submit to the FCC their two most recent Annual EEO Public File Reports when they file their license renewal applications.

For a detailed description of the EEO Rule and practical assistance in preparing a compliance plan, broadcasters should consult The FCC’s Equal Employment Opportunity Rules and Policies – A Guide for Broadcasters published by Pillsbury’s Communications Practice Group. Continue reading →

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Broadband Providers Required to Display Point of Sale Labels

On November 17, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Report and Order (Order) adopting rules requiring broadband internet service providers (ISPs or providers) to prominently display labels disclosing information about broadband prices, rates, data allowances and broadband speeds. The FCC has not yet announced the effective date for ISPs to comply. The Order also includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) in which the FCC seeks comment on the format and content of the label, as well as potential future changes. The comment deadline has been extended to February 16, 2023; reply comments are due by March 16, 2023.


In November 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act) into law. Among other things, the Infrastructure Act directed the FCC to create regulations requiring the display of broadband consumer labels that disclose information regarding broadband internet service plans. The label must also “include information regarding whether the offered price is an introductory rate and, if so, the price the consumer will be required to pay following the introductory period.” The FCC was also required to hold public hearings to evaluate (1) how consumers evaluate broadband internet access service plans; and (2) whether disclosures regarding broadband service plans are available and effective.

In response, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in January 2022 in which it proposed requiring ISPs to disclose information to consumers by displaying labels at the point of sale. The FCC recommended basing the labels on the voluntary labels it previously approved in 2016. In the NPRM, the FCC asked whether broadband services, and consumers’ use of such services, have changed enough to require modifications to the labels.

Consistent with the Infrastructure Act’s mandate, the FCC held public hearings to gather feedback on the content, format and location of the labels. The FCC asked whether the label should vary depending on the consumer’s interaction with the provider, e.g., in person at a store, on the phone or online. Feedback from dozens of comments showed that consumers can be confused by the pricing, terminology and complexity of internet service plans, and most commenters asked the FCC to update the 2016 labels to better help consumers comparison shop for broadband services.

The Label

The FCC’s Order adopted a new, single version of the label (for both fixed and mobile broadband service offerings) and requires providers to display, at the point of sale, a label containing information regarding the provider’s service offerings, prices, introductory rates, data allowances, broadband speeds and whether the provider participates in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The Order defines the format in which the label must appear and the display location. It must also be accessible for people with disabilities and should appear in machine-readable format.

Below is an image of the label template from the FCC’s Order and details outlining the content, formatting and display location requirements:

Continue reading →

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The FCC announced late this afternoon that all items required to be placed in the Online Public Inspection File (“OPIF”) between January 1 and January 31, 2023 may now be uploaded to the OPIF by January 31, 2023 and be considered timely.  The FCC released a Public Notice today announcing that the OPIF filing system has been experiencing technical difficulties since at least January 1, 2023, necessitating the extension.

This extension impacts, among other things, broadcasters’ Quarterly Issues-Programs Lists, normally due on January 10, 2023, and television stations’ 2022 annual certification of compliance with the commercial limits in children’s programming, which would normally be due on January 30, 2023.  Note that the extension does not affect the filing deadline for television stations’ 2022 Annual Children’s Television Programming Report due on January 30, 2023, because that filing is submitted via the FCC’s Licensing and Management System and then is automatically transferred into the OPIF.  Accordingly, television stations should be sure to file that Report by the normal January 30th deadline.

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The FCC’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau has announced that technical updates to the EAS Test Reporting System (“ETRS”) have been completed and the ETRS is open and available to accept filings of Form One by EAS participants. Under the FCC’s EAS Rules, EAS participants must update their identifying information annually via a Form One filing. This is typically done in connection with a nationwide EAS test. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not conduct such a test in 2022, and has not yet announced a 2023 nationwide test. Therefore, the Form One must be submitted independently of a test to comply with the annual updating requirement.

All broadcasters are generally required to submit a Form One, including low power FM stations, Class D noncommercial educational FM stations, and stations that are silent pursuant to a grant of Special Temporary Authority. Certain broadcasters are exempt from filing a Form One, including:

  • TV translator stations;
  • FM booster stations;
  • FM translator stations that entirely rebroadcast the programming of other local FM broadcast stations; and
  • Stations that operate as satellites or repeaters of a hub station (or common studio or control point if there is no hub station) and rebroadcast 100 percent of the programming of the hub station (or common studio or control point). Note that the hub station (or common studio or control point) must file a Form One.

Continue reading →

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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:

  • Violations of Environmental, Historic Preservation, and Tribal Notification Rules Lead to $950,000 Penalty
  • Proposed $300 Million Fine Follows Largest-Ever FCC Robocall Investigation
  • Deceased Licensee’s Estate to Pay $7,000 Penalty for Failing to File Required Applications and Documents

Wireless Provider Pays $950,000 for Violating Environmental, Historic Preservation, and Tribal Notification Rules

A national wireless provider entered into a consent decree with the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, agreeing to pay $950,000 for violating the FCC’s environmental and historic preservation rules, as well as rules requiring entities to coordinate with relevant state governments and tribal nations in the construction of communications sites.

To resolve the FCC’s investigation, the company admitted to prematurely constructing wireless facilities before completing the required environmental and historic preservation reviews and by constructing wireless facilities without onsite monitoring as requested by the affected tribes.  Under Section 1.1307(a)(4) of the FCC’s Rules, applicants and licensees must assess whether proposed facilities may significantly affect the environment and whether the proposed facilities may affect districts, sites, buildings, structures, or objects that are listed (or eligible for listing) in the National Register of Historic Places, or may affect Native American religious sites.  Applicants must also follow other rules set out by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation or the National Historic Preservation Act Review Process, as applicable.

By early 2020, the company began deploying newer wireless technology, commonly known as small cells.  Small cell antennas are used to improve wireless service and can be mounted to streetlight poles, utility poles, or even traffic control structures.  During the summer of 2020, the company began constructing the small cell antennas that are the subject of the Consent Decree.  After the company reported concerns regarding its compliance with the environmental rules to the FCC, the Commission opened an investigation and issued a Letter of Inquiry (“LOI”) to the company in January 2022.  The company filed several responses to the LOI throughout 2022.  Ultimately, the Commission determined that the company began and or/completed building wireless facilities in three states prior to, or without completing, the required review process and Tribal notification process.  The FCC also concluded that the company failed to comply with Tribal notification procedures in two states.  While some of the noncompliant construction was found to have been caused by a miscommunication between the company and its third-party contractors, other violations were the result of a company employee who lacked expertise on the National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act requirements.  Before and during the FCC’s investigation, the company stated that it had begun the process of removing any wireless facilities found to have an adverse effect on historic streets. Continue reading →