This week in regulation for broadcasters – November 27, 2021 to December 3, 2021


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Here are some of the important regulatory developments for broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can find more information on how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The appointment of FCC President Jessica Rosenworcel for another five-year term at the agency has been approved by the Senate Trade Committee. The final step in reviewing his appointment is for the entire Senate to vote to confirm that appointment by the end of the year after his current term expires.
  • The Senate Commerce Committee also held a hearing on the nominations of Gigi Sohn for a post of Democratic Commissioner of the FCC and Alan Davidson as a director of the NTIA. Sohn was pressed by Senators over her past public service work and some of her tweets and other public statements made in connection with that work, her time advising FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, and her role as board member of the now closed local television streaming service. Locast. Sohn expressed general support for local broadcasting, but suggested that she would be in favor of rescinding some recent relaxations in media ownership rules. Davidson’s questions focused on broadband issues and overall federal spectrum policy. We took a look at some of the problems who would wait in Commissioner Sohn’s inbox if it needed to be confirmed.
  • Parties interested in FCC regulations To consider allowing FM broadcast license applicants to verify directional antenna patterns by computer modeling instead of real-world testing, they must file comments by December 30. Response comments are expected by January 14, 2022. (Public notice)
  • The FCC completed its review of applications filed during the non-commercial educational FM radio station filing window last month. The review found 231 Mutually Exclusive Application (MX) groups. The FCC has opened a settlement window until January 28, 2022 for parties to submit technical changes or work with other members of their MX group to reach settlement agreements or resolve disputes. Applicants from an MX group who have not submitted a Settlement or Engineering Change Agreement by the January 28 deadline will have their application submitted to a benchmarking to determine which of the mutually exclusive applications should be accepted. Thirteen requests were found to be defective and rejected. (Public notice) (MX Groups) (Rejected applications)
  • The FCC has reminded DMA 71-80 stations affiliated with one of the four major television networks that they must comply with the FCC audio description rules as of January 1, 2022. The audio description rules (formerly known as described video) make video programming more accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired by requiring the use of an audio subchannel to provide descriptions of the visual action in a television program that takes place on screen . The affected DMAs are Omaha, Wichita-Hutchinson Plus, Springfield, MO, Charleston-Huntington, Columbia, SC, Rochester, NY, Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Huntsville-Decatur, Portland-Auburn and Toledo. (Public notice)
  • FCC reporters take note of this. By December 15, the FCC will shut down its current payment system and open a new payment system within its CORES platform. The Red Light Display system, which allowed users to view and clear financial holdings in their account, will also be shut down. Information on overdue charges will only be available through CORES. (Public notice)
  • The licensee of two Mississippi Class A television stations faces a combined fine of $ 38,000 for the company’s failure to upload quarterly number / program listings on time and for failing to disclose to the FCC within license renewal requests from stations that were uploaded late. Station renewal requests certified that all documents had been uploaded in a timely manner to its public record, as required by FCC rules, when more than three dozen number / program listings had not been uploaded in timely. (Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture – W34DV-D) (Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture – W39CA-D). These actions once again underscore the importance of timely uploading of all documents to the online public file.
  • The FCC proposed a $ 6,000 fine for a TV station that belatedly uploaded problem / program listings to its online public file and berated the same station for posting the URL of a website containing a “shop” button. The FCC Children’s Television Rules prohibit stations from displaying onscreen during programs directed to children the URLs of websites for commercial purposes, including e-commerce or advertising. The programming was provided by a television network, but the station is ultimately responsible for the content of its programming. (Notice of apparent liability for forfeiture and warning)
  • The Copyright Royalty Board has announced that Internet music streaming royalties will increase in 2023 from the royalty rate of $ 0.0021 per performance recently sent by CRB for the period 2021 to 2025. The rates were subject to the cost of living. increases – and the rise in the cost of living index triggered the increase for 2022. The rise in the cost of living will increase the royalties for subscription-free and non-interactive streaming, such as simulcasting a station. Internet radio, including through a mobile app, at $ 0.0022 per performance (one performance occurs every time a song is streamed to a single user – so, for example, a station that plays 10 songs in an hour and had 10 listeners throughout the hour must pay 100 performances by that hour). (CRB Notice) (Summary of new fees for 2021-2025). Some of the rates set last year are still under review. Appeals of last year’s CRB decision setting these rates were filed on November 26. We will have more on these calls soon in our Broadcasting Law Blog.
  • With TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz declaring his nomination for nomination for an open seat in the United States Senate in Pennsylvania, we wrote on our blog about broadcasting law on what a station should do to avoid problems under FCC political broadcasting rules, including the equal time rule when one of its on-air employees decides to run for public office.

For an overview of the upcoming regulatory dates for the rest of December and early January, see our Broadcast Law Blog post, here.

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