The FCC issued public notices this week on the license renewal process for both radio and television operators. The Public Notice on television renewals was perhaps more significant, as it addressed several issues and procedures for the television renewal process which begins with the filing of renewals for stations located in Maryland, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia, to be submitted to the FCC no later than June 1 of this year.
TV broadcasters on ch. 6 can breathe a a little easier, at least temporarily. The FCC has decided to defer a decision on scrapping its rules requiring low-power FMs and noncommercial educational FMs to protect TV ch. 6 from interference. The FCC had proposed doing so as part of an FM rule update approved this week, but decided to hold off.
While some were cheering the FCC’s decision to allow unlicensed devices — for things like streaming, video calling, IoT — to use all 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band, there were some discouraging words as well. “NAB is disappointed the FCC is allowing uncoordinated unlicensed use across the entire 6 GHz band,” said EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton. “Unlike in other recent proceedings, the commission did not bring stakeholders together to seek compromise.”
Recently, FCC staff dismissed a request by the organization Free Press asking the FCC to investigate the broadcast of the President’s press conferences on the coronavirus and programs where commentators supported the President’s pronouncements. The FCC concluded that, in covering a breaking news story like the pandemic, it would be impossible for a broadcaster to fact check every statement made in a press conference and correct any misstatements in anything approaching real time, as there is so much room for interpretation of any statement made on these ongoing matters.
Pandemic or no, the FCC has signaled that it is business as usual for the 2020-23 TV station license renewal cycle, with the exception of public filing notices for the initial round of applications. That is according to the Media Bureau, which issued a reminder Monday (April 20).
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has asked the chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee to speak out against Free Press’s emergency petition to the FCC to stop what that group said was “right-wing personalities” spreading disinformation about the pandemic.
This week, the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Significant Viewing was published in the Federal Register, setting a comment deadline of May 14, with reply comments due by June 15. The NPRM asks for comments as to whether the FCC should update its rules for establishing whether or not a TV station is “significantly viewed” in a market other than the one in which it is located, and whether the FCC has the statutory authority to make changes to these rules that have largely been in effect since 1972.
The Solicitor General of the United States, on behalf of the FCC, has asked the Supreme Court to review a U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning most of its media ownership deregulation decision, hammering the circuit for what the FCC suggested was serial obstruction of what it had concluded was in the public interest.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told KDKA-AM Pittsburgh conservative radio show host Wendy Bell Wednesday evening (April 15) that groups like Free Press — he did not name them but made it clear who he was talking about — “are engaged in a sweeping and dangerous attempt to weaponize the FCC against political actors” it doesn’t like.
Broadcasters face new and complex political file requirements resulting from a series of decisions the FCC made in late 2019 that have resulted in what one attorney calls “a political quagmire.” While there are calls for the commission to reconsider its decisions, for now companies are required to comply with new and complex political file requirements.
Still regaining his strength (he lost 12 pounds during the ordeal) and with a slight cough and what he calls a “shipwreck survivor” beard, the former FCC commissioner details his harrowing medical journey.
Broadcasters are giving new meaning to the phrase “dynamic spectrum access” in arguing that an FCC proposal to free up WiFi spectrum in the 6 GHz band could take away electronic newsgathering spectrum just when a pandemic-sequestered nation needs it most. That came in phone calls last week between National Association of Broadcasting executives and FCC officials.
The longtime force in telecommunications regulation and policy was involved in the banning of cigarette advertising on broadcasting, the regulation of cable and rules prohibiting broadcasters from discriminating in employment on the basis of race. He was 96.
The commission is allowing stations to preempt educational and informational children’s programming for religious programming without having to reschedule it, but only over the next three weeks. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai signaled such preemption for religious services would also be a public service.
The FCC released its tentative agenda for its April 23 open meeting. For TV broadcasters, that meeting will include consideration of the adoption of a rulemaking looking to broaden obligations for the audio description of television programming.
The FCC Chairman praises their response to the coronavirus pandemic, including providing social distancing PSAs, educational programming, and community fundraisers.
The FCC — in this case comprising the chairman, the general counsel and the Media Bureau chief — has flatly, and strongly, rejected a petition by Free Press seeking a government investigation into broadcasters who aired statements by the President Trump during coronavirus briefings and “related commentary,” arguing that the investigation would itself curtail a free press.
President Donald Trump has ordered the review and possible revocation of the applications for, or sales of, FCC licenses, but it has nothing to do with the President’s view of media outlets or his legal team’s threats against TV station owners. Trump issued an executive order Saturday (April 4) establishing the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector.
Two top Democrats in Congress on Thursday asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to reassure broadcasters the agency will not revoke their licenses for airing advertisements critical of President Donald Trump.
The FCC is proposing to require 40 more markets (DMAs 61-100) to provide audio descriptions of video programming but also wants to know if the current pandemic changes any part of the equation. Per the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), FCC rules currently require certain stations in the top 60 markets to provide that service to the blind and visually impaired.
The FCC voted unanimously to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a proposal to allow broadcasters greater flexibility in using distributed transmission systems (DTS) to deliver new ATSC 3.0 signals. The FCC said, and broadcasters agree, that allowing that flexibility with the new advanced TV broadcast standard will get those signals to hard-to-reach viewers, improve indoor reception and be more efficient with the spectrum, a big priority for the FCC.
Friday afternoon, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing an extension of broadcasters’ deadlines for certain filings in light of the disruptions being caused by the coronavirus epidemic.
The FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau have determined the amount of relocation funds they will give to qualified low-power TV stations and translators impacted by the broadcast incentive auction repack and said they will get 85% of that money out ASAP.
The FCC has told broadcasters it doesn’t have to count free ads toward calculation of the lowest unit rate they are required to charge for political ads, but only if those are not “free spots” tied to an existing commercial contract.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the FCC’s Media Bureau has signaled it will look favorably on requests for waivers of its limits on the amount of programming a “brokered” station can air from a broadcast partner and not violate local TV ownership rules.
Life has been upended for most Americans due to the spread of the coronavirus and that tumult is, of course, reaching broadcasters as it reaches others throughout the country. With most FCC forms and filings being submitted electronically, and remote work already being routine for many FCC employees, there should be minimal disruption to broadcasters’ routine daily dealings with the commission. Here’s what’s on tap for next month.
NAB President Gordon Smith said broadcasters don’t want to see any retransmission consent service disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has called for a retransmission consent quiet period to avoid TV station signals going off MVPDs.
President Donald Trump has nominated FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly for a new, five-year term. O’Rielly’s term expired at the end of June 2019, but commissioners can continue to serve until the close of the next Congress. The new term would start July 1, 2019.
In recent days, we have seen presidential primaries delayed by the coronavirus in at least six states. We expect that additional states will be looking at extensions in the coming days. As lowest unit rate windows had already opened in many of these states, the postponement will result in the presidential candidates getting another 45-day window for those low rates in advance of the rescheduled primary date.
In a conference call, the FCC chairman also asks broadcasters to air public service announcements promoting social distancing.
The FCC announced Thursday afternoon that “effective immediately, [we] will no longer allow visitors into our facilities, absent special permission from the Office of Managing Director.” However, that announcement, strange as it would be under normal circumstances, was of no particular importance. That’s because the same document noted that, starting tomorrow, the FCC is asking its staff to telework.
Notifications about cable carriage have now gone electronic — and contact people at stations and MVPDs for notices about carriage issues are now to be provided in the FCC-hosted online public inspection file and in the Cable Operations and Licensing System (COALS). Cable operators are required to upload the same information to COALS. This contact information must be uploaded no later than July 31 and must be kept up-to-date thereafter.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has not made a decision yet on his planned appearance next month at the National Association of Broadcasters’s NAB Show, according to a source. Pai is still slated for a Q&A with NAB President Gordon Smith at the show, which was still on as of Thursday evening, according to NAB’s coronavirus update page.
The FCC says it will be limiting access to the FCC as a preventative measure in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and will be suspending FCC participation in any large gatherings. According to the commission, anyone who has been in any country in the previous 14 days that is subject to CDC level-three travel warnings will not be allowed to enter FCC facilities. Currently that would exclude recent visitors to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea
The FCC has granted the market modification petition of WRNN New Rochelle, N.Y. The FCC’s Media Bureau said Monday that WRNN’s market now includes all of the New York DMA, which means the Altice cable system serving Suffolk (N.Y.), Essex (N.J.), Hudson (N.J.), Monmouth (N.J.), Ocean (N.J.), and Union (N.J.) counties must carry the station.