Articles Posted in

Published on:

This Pillsbury Broadcast Station Advisory is directed to radio and television stations in the areas noted above, and highlights upcoming deadlines for compliance with the FCC’s EEO Rule.

August 1 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 submit their two most recent EEO Public File Reports along with FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 as part of their license renewal application submissions due on August 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, (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. 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, 2019 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 Rule, 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 otherwise 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, 2018 through July 31, 2019. 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 date used in the immediately preceding Report. For example, if the Nonexempt SEU uses the period August 1, 2018 through July 22, 2019 for this year’s report (cutting it off up to ten days prior to July 31, 2019), then next year, the Nonexempt SEU must use a period beginning July 23, 2019 for its report. Continue reading →

Published on:

Full power commercial and noncommercial radio stations and LPFM stations licensed to communities in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands must begin airing pre-filing license renewal announcements on August 1, 2019. License renewal applications for these stations, and for in-state FM translator stations, are due by October 1, 2019.

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 August 1. The remaining pre-filing announcements must air once a day on August 16, September 1, and September 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 February 1, 2020. [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 February 1, 2020. We must file an application for renewal with the FCC by October 1, 2019. When filed, a copy of this application will be available for public inspection at www.fcc.gov. 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 FCC by January 1, 2020.

Further information concerning the FCC’s broadcast license renewal process is available at [address of location of the station][1] or may be obtained from the FCC, Washington, DC 20554, www.fcc.gov.

If a station misses airing an announcement, it should broadcast a make-up announcement as soon as possible and contact counsel to further address the situation. Special rules apply to noncommercial educational stations that do not normally operate during any month when their announcements would otherwise be due to air, as well as to other silent stations. These stations should also contact counsel regarding how to give the required public notice.

Post-Filing License Renewal Announcements

Once the license renewal application has been filed, full power commercial and noncommercial radio and LPFM stations must broadcast six post-filing renewal announcements. These announcements must air, once per day, on October 1, October 16, November 1, November 16, December 1, and December 16, 2019. At least three of these announcements must air between 7:00 am and 9:00 am and/or 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm. At least one announcement must air in each of the following time periods: between 9:00 am and noon, between noon and 4:00 pm, and between 7:00 pm and midnight.

The text of the post-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 February 1, 2020.

Our license will expire on February 1, 2020. We have filed an application for renewal with the FCC.

A copy of this application is available for public inspection at www.fcc.gov. It contains information concerning this station’s performance during the last eight years [or such other period of time covered by the application, if the station’s license term was other than a standard eight-year 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 FCC by January 1, 2020.

Further information concerning the FCC’s broadcast license renewal process is available at [address of location of the station] or may be obtained from the FCC, Washington, DC 20554, www.fcc.gov. 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 2018. 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, 2019.

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 2018. 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, 2019.

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 2018.

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 2018. Television stations with locally-produced programming whose signals were delivered to subscribers located outside the station’s Designated Market Area in 2017 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 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. (those hand-delivered by a private party must arrive by 5:00 p.m.). Claims may be sent by certified mail if they are properly addressed, postmarked by July 31, 2019, and include sufficient postage. Claims filed via eCRB must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on July 31. The Copyright Royalty Board will reject any claim filed prior to July 1, 2019 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:

The availability of broadband Internet service in apartment buildings, condominiums, and office buildings, or what the FCC calls multiple tenant environments (MTE), was the subject of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Declaratory Ruling released on Friday of last week.  Prior FCC decisions have attempted to strike a balance between promoting competitive access to tenants and preserving adequate incentives for the initial service providers to deploy, maintain, and upgrade infrastructure.  For example, the Commission prohibits cable providers and telecommunications carriers from entering into contracts with MTEs that grant a single provider exclusive access to the MTE, but permits exclusive marketing agreements.

The NPRM follows a 2017 Notice of Inquiry in which  the FCC sought comment on certain agreements between MTEs and service providers, including sale-and-leaseback of inside wiring, exclusive marketing agreements, and revenue sharing agreements, whereby a provider agrees to pay the MTE owner a share of the revenue generated from the tenants’ subscription service fees.  The NPRM seeks to refresh the record from the earlier proceeding, and seeks comment on the impact that these arrangements have on broadband deployment and competition within MTEs.

In addition, the NPRM asks whether the FCC “should act to increase competitive access to rooftop facilities, which are often subject to exclusivity agreements.”  Wireless providers use MTE rooftops to locate facilities that establish or enhance wireless services.  The Commission seeks comment on, among other things, the benefits and drawbacks of rooftop exclusivity agreements, the prevalence of such agreements, and common terms and conditions of such agreements that may affect broadband deployment.

The FCC also seeks comment on any other arrangements and practices between MTEs and service providers that may hinder competition among broadband, telecommunications, and video service providers in MTEs, and on any state and local regulations that promote or deter broadband deployment, competition, and access to MTEs.

Comments on the NPRM are due 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register, with replies due 30 days thereafter.

In the Declaratory Ruling released along with the NPRM, the FCC granted in part a 2017 Petition filed by a coalition of service providers seeking preemption of a 2016 San Francisco Ordinance that prohibited building owners from “interfer[ing] with the right of an occupant to obtain communications services from the communications services provider of the occupant’s choice.”  The Ordinance at issue states that a building owner interferes by not allowing a communications provider to (1) “install the facilities and equipment necessary to provide communications services,” or (2) “use any existing wiring to provide communications services as required by this [Ordinance].”

The FCC preempted the Ordinance “to the extent it requires the sharing of in-use facilities in MTEs.”  The Commission explained that the Ordinance, while ambiguous on its face, appears to require the sharing of a building owner’s in-use wiring because it does not explicitly limit sharing to unused wiring, and instead uses the terminology “any existing wiring.”  The Commission noted that San Francisco has failed to clarify whether the Ordinance requires the sharing of in-use wiring, and that such a requirement is the only one of its kind in the country.

The FCC reasoned that preemption is necessary because the in-use sharing requirement “deters broadband deployment, undercuts the Commission’s carefully-balanced rules regarding control of cable wiring in residential MTEs, and threatens the Commission’s framework to protect the technical integrity of cable systems.”  The Commission explained that the Ordinance deters investment by MTEs because they no longer control the wiring they expended resources to install.  Similarly, the FCC stated that the Ordinance deters investment by service providers who are hesitant to install and convey the wiring to an MTE if that wiring can be accessed by a competitor who bore none of the installation costs.  The FCC also stated that the Ordinance has caused confusion as to who is responsible for maintenance of wiring.

The Commission’s preemption of the Ordinance became effective immediately upon release of the Declaratory Ruling.

Published on:

At its July 2019 Open Meeting this week, the FCC voted to make several changes to its Children’s Television Programming rules.  It released its final Order adopting the changes this afternoon.  Although characterized by Commissioner O’Rielly as “modest” changes, the revised rules are likely to alter television broadcasters’ compliance efforts in several significant respects, including the time at which the programming is aired, the type of programming that qualifies as educational, and how a broadcaster demonstrates compliance with the revised rules.

By way of background, the Children’s Television Act of 1990 (CTA) directed the FCC to adopt rules to limit the amount of advertising aired during children’s television programming, and to review at license renewal time the extent to which each television station “has served the educational and informational needs of children through the licensee’s overall programming, including programming specifically designed to serve such needs.”  The FCC subsequently adopted a license renewal “safe harbor” for stations airing an average of at least three hours of “core” children’s programming per week.  To qualify as “core”, the programming must meet a number of requirements, which include having as a significant purpose serving the educational and informational needs of children, being regularly scheduled and at least 30 minutes in length, and airing between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.  To be able to monitor a station’s compliance, the FCC requires each full power and Class A TV station to file a Children’s Television Programming Report detailing its service to children’s viewing needs on a quarterly basis.

With the advent of digital television, the FCC added to its rules a requirement that TV stations engaged in multicasting must also meet the three-hour weekly average for each additional stream of programming broadcast.

In adopting this week’s changes, the FCC modified the time periods during which core children’s programming can be aired, the amount needed to meet the processing guidelines, and the process by which a broadcaster can demonstrate its compliance with the CTA and the FCC’s rules.

For example, the FCC expanded the time period during which educational children’s television programming can be aired and still be counted towards the FCC’s guidelines.  Previously, if a broadcaster intended to have its educational children’s television programming count towards the safe harbor license renewal processing guideline of 3 hours per week, the programming had to be aired between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.  However, some broadcasters, especially those network affiliates in the Pacific time zone, ran into frequent issues of having their educational children’s programming preempted by live sporting events, and several commenters noted that children are often awake at an earlier hour, especially during the summer.  In light of these considerations, the FCC expanded the time period by one hour, so that eligible programming can be aired between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. once the rule changes go into effect.

Under the new rules, broadcasters will still be able to meet their children’s programming obligations by airing three hours of core programming per week, as averaged over a six-month period, but now have two other options as well.  These include (i) airing 26 hours per quarter of core programming, plus an additional 52 hours of programming throughout the year that is at least 30 minutes in length, but which is not provided on a regularly-scheduled basis, such as educational specials or other non-weekly programming; or (ii) airing 26 hours per quarter of core programming, plus an additional 52 hours of programming throughout the year that is not aired on a regularly scheduled basis, but which may be shorter than 30 minutes, such as PSAs or interstitials.  Also, under any scenario, broadcasters will be permitted to count as regularly-scheduled any children’s educational program episode that was preempted but made good within seven days before or after the date it was originally scheduled to air.

Among the other revisions made by the FCC, two stand out.  First, the FCC substantially lessened the burden on broadcasters by eliminating the quarterly Children’s Television Programming Report requirement and replacing it with an annual report.  Second, the FCC voted to eliminate the requirement that broadcasters run an additional three hours of core children’s programming for each multicast channel transmitted.  The FCC determined that the CTA did not require such additional children’s programming, that the programming costs to broadcasters were unnecessary, and that those costs discouraged the offering of multicast channels and the additional programming they provide.  The FCC will also permit a TV station to relocate up to 13 hours per quarter of regularly-scheduled core programming from its primary stream to one of its multicast streams.

The rules will become effective 30 days after their publication in the Federal Register, except for those that require review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (most notably the changes to the Children’s Television Programming Report).  OMB approval typically takes much longer than Federal Register publication.

So TV stations should start revising their children’s programming plans now, but will need to hold off a little longer before those plans can be implemented.