Articles Posted in

Published on:

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:

Headlines:

  • FCC Proposes $66,000 Fine Against Alaska Noncommercial FM Station for EAS and Other Violations
  • Man Faces $120 Million Fine for “Massive” Robocall Operation
  • FCC Proposes $1,500 Fine Against South Carolina AM Station for Late-Filed License Renewal

Alaska Noncommercial FM Station Faces $66,000 Fine for EAS and Other Violations

The FCC proposed a $66,000 fine against an Alaska noncommercial FM station for a number of violations, including actions that the FCC says “undermine the effectiveness of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).”

Section 11.15 of the FCC’s Rules requires that a copy of the EAS Operating Handbook be located “at normal duty stations or EAS equipment locations when an operator is required to be on duty.” In addition, Section 11.35(a) of the Rules states that EAS participants are responsible for ensuring that EAS equipment, such as encoders and decoders, are installed such that “monitoring and transmitting functions are available during the times the stations and system are in operation.” Also, Section 11.52(d)(1) requires EAS participants to monitor two EAS sources.

A June 2013 FCC inspection of the station’s main studio revealed several violations of the FCC’s EAS Rules. Specifically, the FCC agent found that the station (1) did not have an EAS Handbook; (2) did not have properly operating EAS equipment (because the programming and identification of the station’s EAS device was for another station); and (3) was only monitoring one EAS source.

In addition, the agent found numerous violations of the FCC’s other broadcast rules, including: (1) failure to post a valid license as required by Section 73.1230; (2) failure to maintain a public inspection file as required by Section 73.3527; (3) failure to retain the logs required by Section 73.1840; (4) failure to maintain a main studio staff under Section 73.1125(a); (5) inability to produce documentation designating a chief operator as required by Section 73.1870; and (6) failure to ensure that the station was operating in accordance with the terms of the station authorization or within variances permitted under the FCC’s technical rules, as required by Section 73.1400.

The FCC subsequently issued a Notice of Violation (“NOV”) to the station in August 2013. When the FCC did not receive a response from the station within the 20-day deadline specified in the NOV, the FCC sent a Warning Letter to the station in September 2013, and issued two additional NOVs in November 2013 and April 2016 directing the station “to provide information concerning the apparent violations described in the August 2013 NOV.” Despite signing a receipt for the April 2016 NOV, the station again failed to respond.

The base fine amounts for the apparent EAS violations, broadcast violations, and failures to respond to the NOVs total $11,000, $23,000, and $16,000 respectively. The FCC may adjust a fine upward or downward after taking into account the particular facts of each case. Here, citing the station’s failure to respond to FCC documents of four occasions, the FCC concluded that a 100 percent upward adjustment of the base fine for the failures to respond, or an additional $16,000, was warranted. As a result, the FCC proposed a total fine against the station of $66,000.

FCC Proposes $120 Million Fine for Caller ID Spoofing Operation

A Florida man’s spoofing campaign has earned him a proposed $120 million fine. The man apparently caused the display of misleading or inaccurate caller ID information (“spoofing”) on millions of calls to perpetrate an illegal robocalling campaign.

The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, as codified in Section 227(e) of the Communications Act and Section 64.1604 of the FCC’s Rules, prohibits any person from knowingly causing, directly or indirectly, any caller ID service to transmit or display misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value. Continue reading →

Published on:

This advisory is directed to television stations with locally-produced programming whose signals were carried by at least one cable system located outside the station’s local service area or by a satellite provider that provided service to at least one viewer outside the station’s local service area during 2016. These stations may be eligible to file royalty claims for compensation with the United States Copyright Royalty Board. These filings are due by July 31, 2017.

Under the federal Copyright Act, cable systems and satellite operators must pay license royalties to carry distant TV signals on their systems. Ultimately, the Copyright Royalty Board divides the royalties among those copyright owners who claim shares of the royalty fund. Stations that do not file claims by the deadline will not be able to collect royalties for carriage of their signals during 2016.

In order to file a cable royalty claim, a television station must have aired locally-produced programming of its own and had its signal carried outside of its local service area by at least one cable system in 2016. Television stations with locally-produced programming whose signals were delivered to subscribers located outside the station’s Designated Market Area in 2016 by a satellite provider are also eligible to file royalty claims. A station’s distant signal status should be evaluated and confirmed by communications counsel.

Both the cable and satellite claim forms may be filed electronically or in paper form. Paper forms may be downloaded from https://www.crb.gov/cable/; however, with the recent introduction of the Copyright Royalty Board’s new online filing system, eCRB, claimants are strongly encouraged to file claims online. Prior to filing electronically, claimants or their authorized representatives must register for an eCRB account at https://app.crb.gov/.To submit claims, stations are required to supply the name and address for the filer and for the copyright owner, and must provide a general statement as to the nature of the copyrighted work (e.g., local news, sports broadcasts, specials, or other station-produced programming). Claimants should keep copies of all submissions and confirmations of delivery, including certified mail receipts.

Those filing paper forms should be aware that detailed rules as to how the claims must be addressed and delivered apply. Claims that are hand-delivered by a local Washington, D.C. commercial courier must be delivered between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm (those hand-delivered by a private party must arrive by 5:00 pm). Claims may be sent by certified mail if they are properly addressed, postmarked by July 31, 2017, and include sufficient postage. Claims filed via eCRB must be submitted by 11:59 pm (EDT) on July 31. The Copyright Royalty Board will reject any claim filed prior to July 1, 2017 or after the deadline. Overnight delivery services such as Federal Express cannot be used. Stations filing paper claims should verify the proper procedures with communications counsel.

Please contact any of the group’s attorneys for assistance in determining whether your station qualifies to make a claim and in filing the claim itself.

A PDF version of this article can be found here.

 

Published on:

July 2017

This Broadcast Station Advisory is directed to radio and television stations in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, and highlights the upcoming deadlines for compliance with the FCC’s EEO Rule.

August 1, 2017 is the deadline for broadcast stations licensed to communities in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin 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 electronically file their EEO Mid-term Report on FCC Form 397 by August 1, 2017.

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, (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. Nonexempt SEUs must submit to the FCC the two most recent Annual EEO Public File Reports with their license renewal applications.

In addition, all TV station SEUs with five or more full-time employees and all radio station SEUs with more than ten full-time employees must submit to the FCC the two most recent Annual EEO Public File Reports at the midpoint of their eight-year license term along with FCC Form 397 – the Broadcast Mid-Term EEO Report.

Exempt SEUs – those with fewer than five 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, broadcasters should consult The FCC’s Equal Employment Opportunity Rules and Policies – A Guide for Broadcasters published by Pillsbury’s Communications Practice Group. This publication is available at: http://www.pillsburylaw.com/publications/broadcasters-guide-to-fcc-equal-employment-opportunity-rules-policies.

Deadline for the Annual EEO Public File Report for Nonexempt Radio and Television SEUs

Consistent with the above, August 1, 2017 is the date by which Nonexempt SEUs of radio and television stations licensed to communities in the states identified above, including Class A television stations, must (i) place their Annual EEO Public File Report in the public inspection files of all stations comprising the SEU, and (ii) post the Report on the websites, if any, of those stations. LPTV stations are also subject to the broadcast EEO rules, even though LPTV stations are not required to maintain a public inspection file. Instead, these stations must maintain a “station records” file containing the station’s authorization and other official documents and must make it available to an FCC inspector upon request. Therefore, if an LPTV station has five or more full-time employees, or is part of a Nonexempt SEU, it must prepare an Annual EEO Public File Report and place it in the station records file.

These Reports will cover the period from August 1, 2016 through July 31, 2017. However, Nonexempt SEUs may “cut off” the reporting period up to ten days before July 31, so long as they begin the next annual reporting period on the day after the cut-off day used in the immediately preceding Report. For example, if the Nonexempt SEU uses the period August 1, 2016 through July 21, 2017 for this year’s report (cutting it off up to ten days prior to July 31, 2017), then next year, the Nonexempt SEU must use a period beginning July 22, 2017 for its report. Continue reading →

Published on:

According to a newly-released Public Notice, the FCC has directed the U.S. Department of Treasury to pay all broadcasters who had winning bids in the recently concluded spectrum incentive auction.  The only exceptions are those broadcasters that failed to submit sufficient banking information to the Commission for payment to be made.  Since the FCC does not control the actual release of funds, it indicates it will deem the amounts as paid five business days from the release of yesterday’s Public Notice (ie, July 27).  Any broadcaster expecting to be paid that is not listed in the attachment to the Public Notice will want to promptly fix any issues with its banking information so that it too can receive payment.

The Public Notice also establishes the deadline for each category of auction winner to go off-air after getting paid. For the fewer than a dozen stations actually terminating service and going permanently dark, yesterday’s announcement is a major milestone, establishing their last day of operation as October 25, 2017.  These stations can actually cease operating as early as late August, but only if they start airing their required notices to viewers and sending their notices to MVPDs immediately.  Those needing a longer goodbye can ask for additional time to remain on air as long as they can show the FCC good cause for continuing to operate beyond the deadline.

The approximately 30 stations that elected to move to a high or low VHF channel obviously do not face a “go dark” deadline.  Instead, they will transition to their new channel much the same way as stations being involuntarily repacked.  In other words, these stations will start operations on their new channels according to the FCC’s previously-announced transition phase assignments.  They’ll just do so with lighter hearts and heavier pockets than repacked stations.

The majority of the stations listed in the Public Notice as being eligible for an auction payment indicated at the start of the auction (in their Form 177) that they had entered into or intended to enter into a channel sharing agreement for post-auction operation.  These stations have until January 23, 2018 to cease operating on their current channel and commence operations on their shared channel.  If a station’s “intention” to enter into a channel sharing agreement has not yet been realized, it will have until January 23, 2018 to get that done.  In addition, the FCC is allowing channel sharing stations to request up to two 90-day extensions (until July 2018) if they need it.

The timing of yesterday’s announcement effectively means that auction winners whose channel sharing partner was assigned to a new channel as part of the repack will have to transition twice—once to their sharing partner’s pre-transition channel, and a second time to their partner’s repacked channel.  Since the first transition phase testing period does not begin until September 14, 2018, even a channel sharee obtaining both 90-day extension periods would have to get special dispensation from the FCC or go dark for some period of time if it wants to avoid having to do a two-step transition.

While bidding in the first-ever broadcast incentive auction has been over for months now, today’s Public Notice is a major step in finally closing the book on that auction.  The U.S. Treasury will be sending auction payments out over the next few days, and once that is done, all eyes will be on the repack itself.  Given last week’s implosion of the FCC’s filing system under the strain of the initial round of repack construction permit applications and reimbursement claims, the repack promises to be a challenging endeavor for both broadcasters and the FCC.  However, for those broadcasters whose pockets are flush with auction payments, the repack might seem just a little less burdensome.

Published on:

The next Children’s Television Programming Report must be filed with the FCC and placed in stations’ public inspection files by July 10, 2017, reflecting programming aired during the months of April, May, and June 2017.

Statutory and Regulatory Requirements

As a result of the Children’s Television Act of 1990 (“Act”) 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 under, and (2) air programming responsive to the educational and informational needs of children 16 years of age and under.

These two obligations, in turn, require broadcasters to comply with two paperwork requirements. Specifically, stations must: (1) place in their online public inspection file one of four prescribed types of documentation demonstrating compliance with the commercial limits in children’s television, and (2) submit 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. The FCC automatically places the electronically filed Form 398 filings into the respective station’s online public inspection file. However, each station should confirm that has occurred to ensure that its online public inspection file is complete. The base fine for noncompliance with the requirements of the FCC’s Children’s Television Programming Rule is $10,000.

Broadcasters must file their reports via the Licensing and Management System (LMS), accessible at https://enterpriseefiling.fcc.gov/dataentry/login.html.

Noncommercial Educational Television Stations

Because noncommercial educational television stations are precluded from airing commercials, the commercial limitation rules do not apply to such stations. Accordingly, noncommercial television stations have no obligation to place commercial limits documentation in their public inspection files. Similarly, though noncommercial stations are required to air programming responsive to the educational and informational needs of children 16 years of age and under, they do not need to complete FCC Form 398. They must, however, maintain records of their own in the event their performance is challenged at license renewal time. In the face of such a challenge, a noncommercial station will be required to have documentation available that demonstrates its efforts to meet the needs of children.

Commercial Television Stations

Commercial Limitations

The Commission’s rules require that stations limit the amount of “commercial matter” appearing in children’s programs to 12 minutes per clock hour on weekdays and 10.5 minutes per clock hour on the weekend. In addition to commercial spots, website addresses displayed during children’s programming and promotional material must comply with a four-part test or they will be considered “commercial matter” and counted against the commercial time limits. In addition, the content of some websites whose addresses are displayed during programming or promotional material are subject to host-selling limitations. Program promos also qualify as “commercial matter” unless they promote children’s educational/informational programming or other age-appropriate programming appearing on the same channel. Licensees must prepare supporting documents to demonstrate compliance with these limits on a quarterly basis.

For commercial stations, proof of compliance with these commercial limitations must be placed in the online public inspection file by the tenth day of the calendar quarter following the quarter during which the commercials were aired. Consequently, this proof of compliance should be placed in your online public inspection file by July 10, 2017, covering programming aired during the months of April, May, and June 2017. Continue reading →

Published on:

The next Quarterly Issues/Programs List (“Quarterly List”) must be placed in stations’ public inspection files by July 10, 2017, reflecting information for the months of April, May, and June 2017.

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 the 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.

Given that program logs are no longer mandated by the FCC, the Quarterly Lists may be the most important evidence of a station’s compliance with its public service obligations. The lists also provide important support for the certification of Class A television station compliance discussed below. We therefore urge stations not to “skimp” on the Quarterly Lists, and to err on the side of over-inclusiveness. Otherwise, stations risk a determination by the FCC that they did not adequately serve the public interest during the license term. Stations should include in the Quarterly Lists as much issue-responsive programming as they feel is necessary to demonstrate fully their responsiveness to community needs. Taking extra time now to provide a thorough Quarterly List will help reduce risk at license renewal time.

It should be noted that the FCC has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the Quarterly Lists and often brings enforcement actions against stations that do not have fully complete Quarterly Lists or that do not timely place such lists in their public inspection file. The FCC’s base fine for missing Quarterly Lists is $10,000.

Preparation of the Quarterly List

The Quarterly Lists are required to be placed in the public inspection file by January 10, April 10, July 10, and October 10 of each year. The next Quarterly List is required to be placed in stations’ public inspection files by July 10, 2017, covering the period from April 1, 2017 through June 30, 2017. All TV stations, as well as commercial radio stations in the Top-50 Nielsen Audio markets that have five or more full-time employees, must post their Quarterly Lists to the online public inspection file. Continue reading →

Published on:

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:

Headlines:

  • TV Broadcaster Agrees to $55,000 “Civil Penalty” for Airing False EAS Tones
  • Radio Broadcaster to Donate or Surrender Nine FM Stations to Resolve Investigation of Stations Being Silent for Extended Periods
  • FCC Proposes $6,000 Fine Against California TV Station for Public File and Related Violations

Broadcast of False EAS Tones Leads to $55,000 Settlement with FCC

The FCC entered into a Consent Decree with the parent company of a Florida TV station to resolve an investigation into whether the station transmitted Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) tones outside of an actual emergency.

Section 325(a) of the Communications Act prohibits any person from transmitting “any false or fraudulent signal of distress” or similar communication. Further, Section 11.45 of the FCC’s Rules prohibits transmission of “the EAS codes or Attention Signal, or a recording or simulation thereof,” unless it is “an actual National, State, or Local Area emergency or authorized test of the EAS” (emphasis added).

On August 9, 2016, the FCC received a complaint alleging that the station had “aired a commercial multiple times that improperly used the EAS data burst and tone.” The FCC subsequently began an investigation into whether the station had violated its rules governing EAS, and directed the station to respond to the allegations.  In its response, the station explained that it started airing an advertisement on August 6, 2016 for a professional football team which opened with EAS Tones, the sounds of wind and thunder, and a voiceover stating: “This is an emergency broadcast transmission. This is not a test. This is an emergency broadcast transmission. This is not a test. Please remain calm. Seek shelter.”

The station claimed that its policies and practices do not allow transmission of false EAS tones, but that it received the advertisement from an outside source and the station’s “employees apparently failed to screen the Promotion before airing it.” The station explained that when a senior member of the station’s staff saw the advertisement on August 8, 2016, he notified the general manager that it contained a prohibited use of an EAS tone, and told staff not to air it again.

The station’s parent company subsequently entered into a consent decree with the FCC to resolve the investigation, under which the company (1) admitted that the station aired material that contained simulated EAS tones absent an actual emergency or authorized test of the EAS, (2) agreed to pay a $55,000 civil penalty, and (3) agreed to implement a three-year compliance plan.

Radio Broadcaster Agrees to Donate or Surrender Nine FM Station Licenses for Failure to Operate Stations

The owner of a number of radio stations entered into a Consent Decree with the FCC to resolve an investigation into the company’s alleged failure to operate its stations during their most recent license terms.

Section 312(g) of the Communications Act prohibits extended periods of silence by licensed stations because of their obligation to serve the public by broadcasting on their allocated spectrum. Specifically, a station’s license will automatically terminate if it remains silent for twelve consecutive months unless the FCC acts to extend or reinstate the license where “the holder of the station license prevails in an administrative or judicial appeal, the applicable law changes, or for any other reason to promote equity and fairness.”  Additionally, the Act authorizes the FCC to revoke any station license for failure to operate substantially as set forth in that license, and Section 73.1740 of the FCC’s Rules establishes minimum operating requirements for broadcast stations. Continue reading →

Published on:

No, I’m not referring to the fact that physically writing a letter seems to have joined button hooks and slide rules in the dustbin of history.  Instead, another relic of history–the requirement that letters and emails from the public be kept in the public file–disappeared from the FCC’s rulebook today.  Even more consequentially, that change means that it is now possible for a station that has uploaded all of its other public file materials to the FCC’s online database to eliminate its local public file, ending a requirement adopted over fifty years ago.

That news may confuse many, as our regular readers know that the FCC voted to eliminate the requirement at the first meeting of the Pai FCC on January 31, 2017.  At the time, the news was reported in many publications as “FCC eliminates letters from the public from public file.”  As a result, many assumed that the requirement had ceased to exist five months ago.

However, because the change affects what information the government requires of broadcasters (or in this case, no longer requires), it had to first be approved by the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.  News of the OMB approval then needed to be published in the Federal Register, along with the effective date of the rule change (only in government would a statute called the Paperwork Reduction Act actually require more paperwork).

OMB approval has now been received, and the Federal Register duly reported that today, along with the corresponding effective date of the change: June 29, 2017.  So, for stations that have already uploaded all other public file documents to the FCC’s public file database, including political file documents, the requirement to maintain a local “paper” file is no more.

That in turn has at least two ripple effects.  First, as the FCC noted in eliminating the requirement, stations will now be able to secure their facilities at a time when the media finds itself increasingly the target of threats and violence.  No longer will potentially unstable or violent individuals be able to make it past the front door merely because they know the phrase “I’d like to see the public file.”

Second, such stations will no longer need to ensure they have sufficient staff continuously on hand to guarantee a visitor can immediately inspect the local public file at any time during regular business hours, including lunchtime.

So if your station has uploaded all of its other public file documents to the FCC’s database, today, for the first time since 1965, you can hang a sign saying “Out to Lunch” on the front door.  Go have a bite with your station colleagues, and regardless of where you eat, it will no doubt be a particularly tasty and very memorable lunch.

Published on:

The FCC voted unanimously yesterday to adopt a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) that may have a profound impact on the delivery of communications services in residential and commercial buildings, shopping malls and other multiple tenant environments (“MTEs”). This proceeding will revisit FCC rules and policies developed during the last 17 years, focusing on whether changes need to be made to enhance broadband deployment and consumer choice.  Building owners and managers, communications service providers, and tenants all have a stake in the outcome of this inquiry.

In a nutshell, current FCC policies favor competitive access by telecom and video service providers (with some exceptions), and prohibit exclusive contracts between service providers and building owners that would limit such access. These rules also cover access to in-building wiring and the conduits and rights-of-way within these properties that are owned or controlled by the service providers.   The rules apply to regulated service providers because the FCC generally lacks jurisdiction over building owners and managers.

The most recent FCC order, issued in 2010, approved the use of exclusive marketing and bulk billing arrangements between video providers and building owners. Exclusive marketing arrangements give video providers the exclusive right to market services to residents in a building.  Bulk billing arrangements permit the video provider to serve each resident of the building, usually at a significant discount from the retail rate.  The billing for services is often included within the rent, whether the resident uses the services or contracts with another service provider.

The FCC initiated this proceeding in response to allegations from fixed and mobile broadband service providers that they face challenges in expanding their service footprint because of MTEs with exclusive contracts. There are also arguments that state regulations intended to encourage competitive access actually hinder the ability to provide competitive services. In one pending proceeding, a group of service providers has asked the FCC to preempt an ordinance recently adopted by the City of San Francisco requiring building owners to give competing service providers access to existing wiring upon request from a resident, which the complaining service providers and many building owners contend will deter investment in the communications infrastructure of new buildings and is impractical because of space limitations in many older buildings.

Unlike the earlier proceedings which were focused on specific markets (telecommunications or video services) or types of buildings (resident or commercial), the NOI will cover all services and all types of MTEs. Indeed, for the purpose of this proceeding, MTEs include both commercial and residential premises such as apartment and condominium buildings, shopping malls, gated communities, mobile home parks, garden apartments and other centrally managed residential real estate developments, or any multi-unit premise occupied by two or more distinct units.  Most buildings are covered by this proceeding.

Some of the specific questions on which the FCC seeks comment include:

  1. Whether there are state and local regulations that may inhibit broadband deployment and competition within MTEs;
  2. Whether the FCC should revisit its decision approving exclusive marketing and bulk billing arrangements;
  3. Whether revenue sharing agreements, exclusive wiring arrangements or other types of contractual provisions are affecting broadband competition within MTEs;
  4. Whether there are statutory or jurisdictional considerations that should guide the FCC’s actions in this proceeding; and
  5. Whether the proposed reclassification of broadband internet access as an information service will impact the FCC’s legal authority to address broadband deployment within MTEs.

Comments in this proceeding will be due July 24, 2017 and reply comments will be due August 22, 2017.   The NOI process is a first step toward the development of new rules.  Once the NOI comment cycle is completed, the FCC may issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing rule changes, requiring another round of comments before new rules could be adopted.

Published on:

As we wrote about at the time, in April the Pai FCC continued its efforts to modernize broadcast regulation by restoring an old rule–the UHF Discount–until it can take a broader look at its national ownership cap later this year.  While restoration of the Discount merely reinstated the status quo that existed before the Wheeler FCC’s rushed effort to eliminate the Discount last fall, the decision was greeted with disdain by advocacy groups concerned about media consolidation.

After the Commission’s April 20 vote to restore the UHF Discount, those groups filed a request that the FCC stay the rule change rather than let it go into effect on June 5, 2017.  The FCC did not act on that stay request, leading the groups to file an additional stay request with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on May 26, 2017.

Given the short time span between the stay filing and the effective date of the Discount reinstatement, the court issued an administrative stay of the effectiveness of the change until it could complete its review of the request and oppositions filed subsequently.  A fair amount of public confusion was caused when a number of publications reported that administrative stay as “court stays reinstatement of UHF Discount”, failing to note that it was just a short term stay unrelated to the merits of the case.

This morning, the court lifted that administrative stay, and denied the groups’ larger request for a stay pending court review of the FCC’s order reinstating the UHF Discount.  In a one-page order, the court tersely stated that the “Petitioners have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending review” and denied the request.

As a result, the UHF Discount is once again the law of the land.  It is of course still subject to the pending appeal, which the court will rule on at a later date.  However, even that appeal could be mooted by whatever action the FCC takes in its comprehensive review of the national ownership rule later this year.