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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published the 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:

  • Louisiana TV Station Admonished for Lack of Non-Discrimination Clause in Advertising Contracts
  • $25,000 Fine for a Variety of Rule Violations by Florida Low Power FM Station Affirmed
  • FCC Proposes $367,436 Fine for Marketing Violations Involving WiFi Devices

FCC Media Bureau Admonishes TV Station for Lack of Non-Discrimination Clause in Advertising Contracts

The FCC’s Media Bureau admonished a Louisiana TV station for failing to include a non-discrimination clause in its advertising sales contracts.  While it stopped short of issuing a fine, the Bureau warned that future violations could result in harsher sanctions.

Since 2008, the FCC has required commercial radio and television stations to include explicit non-discrimination clauses in their ad sales contracts.  To ensure compliance, the FCC revised its broadcast license renewal application form in 2011 to require commercial broadcasters to certify that their ad sales contracts contain a non-discrimination clause making clear to advertisers that the station will not accept advertising placed with an intent to discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.  If a licensee is unable to certify compliance, the FCC requires an attachment to the license renewal application explaining the circumstances and why such non-compliance should not be considered an obstacle to the station’s license renewal.

The TV station responded “No” to the non-discrimination certification in its license renewal application, noting that its advertising agreements did not contain a non-discrimination clause.  The station indicated, however, that it does not permit discrimination in its ad sales and that it would add a non-discrimination clause to its ad sales contracts going forward.

In light of the absence of any evidence that the station had actually engaged in discriminatory ad sales, the Media Bureau admonished the station, granted its license renewal application, and warned that any future violations could trigger fines or more severe sanctions.

While enforcement actions involving the FCC’s advertising non-discrimination requirements are uncommon, that is because most stations are able to make the necessary certification in their license renewal application.  Radio and television broadcasters should examine their advertising contracts to ensure they contain the necessary language and that their stations have in fact been meeting their obligation to prevent discrimination by race or ethnicity in advertising sales.

FCC Enforcement Bureau Denies Petition to Reconsider $25,000 LPFM Fine

The FCC Enforcement Bureau denied a Petition for Reconsideration filed by the licensee of a Florida low power FM radio station, finding unpersuasive the licensee’s argument that a $25,000 fine should be cancelled due to the licensee’s inability to pay.

A 2022 Forfeiture Order concluded that the licensee failed to: (1) operate the station according to the parameters of its license and the FCC’s rules; (2) make the station available for inspection by FCC field agents; and (3) properly maintain Emergency Alert System (EAS) equipment. 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, 2024, reflecting information for the months of April, May, and June 2024.

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 their 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.

The FCC has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the Quarterly Lists and often brings enforcement actions against stations that do not have complete Quarterly Lists in their Public Inspection File or which have failed to timely upload such lists when due.  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, 2024, covering the period from April 1, 2024 through June 30, 2024. Continue reading →