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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.

 

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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 →

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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.

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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 →

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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 →