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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 →

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With the end of another year soon upon us, we have begun to look forward to the highs, lows, joys, and filings that 2023 has in store.  In accordance with a Pillsbury holiday tradition, earlier this month we published our annual Broadcasters’ Calendar of upcoming regulatory deadlines for broadcasters–a compendium of the currently known deadlines occurring throughout 2023. It’s full of dates and deadlines affecting TV and radio in the coming year, and cross-references some of our other Advisories to help stations meet their regulatory obligations in the year ahead. We hope this Calendar helps guide you into and through the new year.  Happy 2023 to all.

Items of Note in 2023[1]

  1. Commercial and Noncommercial Biennial Ownership Report: December 1, 2023 is the deadline by which all commercial and noncommercial radio and television stations must file their biennial ownership reports. Commercial stations will file FCC Form 2100, Schedule 323, and noncommercial stations will file FCC Form 2100, Schedule 323-E. The filing window opens October 1, 2023, and all ownership reports must reflect information current as of that date.
  2. Applications for Renewal of License: The three-year long state-by-state license renewal cycle ends in April 2023 for stations in the television services (full-power television, Class A television, LPTV, and TV Translator). The three-year renewal cycle for stations in the radio services (AM, FM, FM Translator, and LPFM) ended in April 2022. Stations will file their license renewal applications on FCC Form 2100, Schedule 303-S (“Form 303-S”) along with their Equal Opportunity Employment Reports on Form 2100, Schedule 396 (“Form 396”). The date by which the licensee must file a station’s application for license renewal depends on the state or territory of the station’s community of license. All licensees should familiarize themselves now with the dates associated with this important filing. As noted in previous Calendars, stations are no longer required to air pre-filing announcements during the two months preceding the filing of their license renewal application and instead need only air six post-filing announcements over four consecutive weeks, beginning within five business days after the FCC has “accepted for filing” their license renewal application. Additional information can be found in our License Renewal Advisories published on CommLawCenter prior to each state-by-state application deadline.
  • TV Spectrum Repack Progress Report and Reimbursement Deadlines: Because the 39-month post-auction transition period for full-power and Class A television stations ended in 2020, the post-repack Transition Progress Report (FCC Form 2100, Schedule 387) filing deadlines are not noted in this year’s calendar. However, stations that received an extension of time to complete their transition must continue to file Transition Progress Reports on a quarterly basis until they have ceased operating on their pre-repack channels, completed construction of their post-repack facilities, and reported that information to the FCC. In addition to these quarterly reports, transitioning stations must file Transition Progress Reports ten weeks before the end of their assigned construction deadline, ten days after completion of all work related to constructing their post-repack facilities, and five days after ceasing operations on their pre-auction channel. Throughout 2021 and 2022, all repacked full-power and Class A television stations and FM stations and LPTV/translator stations that sought reimbursement had to submit all invoices and supporting documentation, and initiate interim close-out procedures. The FCC announced in February 2022 that it intends to visit a random sample of Broadcaster Relocation Fund participants to verify the existence and operational status of equipment for which the participant received reimbursement.

January 1

Audio Description Requirements Extend to Nielsen Designated Market Areas 81 to 90—Commercial television stations affiliated with one of the top four broadcast networks and assigned to the Madison, Waco-Temple-Bryan, Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg, Colorado Springs-Pueblo, Shreveport, Syracuse, Champaign and Springfield-Decatur, Savannah, or Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City and Dubuque Nielsen Designated Market Areas must comply with the FCC’s audio description (formerly video description) rules.

January 10

Quarterly Issues/Programs List Due—All full-power radio, full-power television, and Class A television stations must upload to their Public Inspection File by this date the Quarterly Issues/Programs List covering the period October 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022. Continue reading →