This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: August 22, 2020 to August 28, 2020
Here are some of the regulatory and legal developments of the last week of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how they may affect your operations.
- The FCC this week released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing changes to the fees it charges broadcasters for filing applications like assignments, transfers of control, construction permits, and minor modifications. The new fees are based on the FCC’s attempt to estimate its costs in processing applications, resulting in a proposed increase in some fees and a decrease in others (e.g. an application for a new AM or FM station will be almost $500 cheaper if the FCC’s proposal is adopted, while the filing of a Form 316 short-form assignment or transfer of control application will cost $260 more). Comments and reply comments on the proposed new application fees will be due 30 days after the Notice is published in the Federal Register, with Reply comments due 45 days from that publication. (NPRM)
- The Radio Music License Committee announced a settlement with SESAC on commercial radio music royalties covering the period from January 1, 2019 through the end of 2022. The settlement essentially carries forward the royalties that broadcasters have been paying SESAC for the last three years. See our Broadcast Law Blog article on the settlement here. The new blanket agreement is available on the RMLC website here and instructions from SESAC can be found here.
- The NAB this week hosted a webinar with FCC speakers on the considerations that broadcasters should keep in mind in deciding whether to accept a lump-sum payment for costs that they will incur in making changes to authorized satellite dishes in the C-Band. An election to take a lump-sum payment must be made by September 14 and obligates the broadcaster to assume all future costs of the transition itself. The decision is not as straightforward as it might seem. The free webinar can be assessed on the NAB website here. We wrote about these considerations on our Blog here.
- Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco have caused the FCC to activate its Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) for dozens of designated counties in nearly 20 states and Washington, DC. The FCC asks communications providers, like TV and radio broadcasters, to voluntary report on the status of their signals and infrastructure to give the FCC a sense of the on-the-ground situation and to help inform its deployment of recovery resources. As of Friday afternoon, four TV stations, 23 FM stations, and one AM station reported being out of service. (DIRS Public Notice) (August 28 DIRS Status Report)
- We published on the Broadcast Law Blog our look at some of the regulatory dates broadcasters should be aware of in September and early October. The upcoming dates include those for annual regulatory fees, the opening of the lowest unit rate window for advertising by political candidates, the C-Band lump-sum reimbursement election deadline, rulemaking comments, and a plethora of routine regulatory obligations in early October. (Broadcast Law Blog)
In the week coming up, keep your eyes open for an FCC decision on the regulatory fees that broadcasters must pay in September. Look for a decision as to the amount of the fees to be paid by broadcasters (particularly whether there will be any reduction in radio fees as urged by the NAB), and the deadline by which these fees must be paid.