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FCC Declares Open Season on Television License Renewal Applications

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 receive a notice does not excuse a licensee from timely compliance with the Commission’s license renewal requirements.”

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