April brings the whole panoply of routine regulatory dates – from the need to prepare EEO Public File and Noncommercial Ownership Reports in some states, to Quarterly Issues Programs lists for all full-power broadcast stations and Quarterly Children’s Television Programming Reports for all TV stations. So let’s look at some of the specific dates that broadcasters need to remember this coming month.
On the first of the month, EEO Public Inspection File Reports should be placed in the Public Inspection files of all stations in employment units with five or more full-time employees in the following states: Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. In addition, EEO Mid-Term Reports on FCC Form 397 need to be submitted to the FCC by radio stations that are part of employment units of 11 or more full-time employees in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana. For more on the EEO Mid Term Report, see our article here.
Noncommercial television stations in Texas and noncommercial radio stations in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana have Biennial Ownership Reports on FCC Form 323E due to be filed at the FCC on April 1. While noncommercial stations will be shifting over to a new schedule of filing biennial ownership reports by December 1 of every odd numbered year at the same time as commercial stations, that new schedule has not yet gone into effect. So, until it does, stations need to continue to file on the old schedule – thus the filing dates this month.
Every station, commercial and noncommercial, no matter how big its staff, also has an obligation, by the tenth of the month, to place in their public inspection file Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, summarizing the issues that the licensee believed were most important to its community in the prior quarter, and the programming that it broadcast in that three-month period to address those issues. These Quarterly Issues Programs Lists are the only officially required records to document a station’s public service to its community, and thus are viewed as being very important by the FCC. Big fines have been imposed on stations that are discovered by the FCC to not have these lists in their public file, so remember your obligation (see this article about a recent fine for missing Quarterly Issues Programs lists). And, as we wrote yesterday, with TV public inspection files already online, and radio’s files soon going there, the FCC and other interested parties will be able to check your compliance from any computer terminal anywhere in the world – so don’t forget to complete these reports.
For TV stations, equally important is their obligations to file with the FCC their Quarterly Children’s Television Programming Reports on FCC Form 398. These, too, must be submitted by April 10 to report on the educational and informational programming directed to children broadcast by the station in the prior quarter. As these reports are filed with the FCC, they should automatically upload to the station’s online public inspection file (but you are responsible for checking to make sure that this occurs). In addition, TV stations should place into their public files information demonstrating that they have met the rules limiting the number of commercials allowed in children’s programming.
As we are engaged in a hot political season, there are many stations that are located in states that will be holding Presidential primaries (and even some primaries for other federal, state and local offices) in the near future. Remember that lowest unit rates must be charged to all candidates during the 45 days before any primary election. So lowest unit charges will kick in during April in states with primary elections that will occur in April, May and even in the first half of June. For more about your political broadcasting obligations, see our recently updated Political Broadcasting Guide here.
For more on these routine regulatory dates, see our Broadcasters Calendar, here. This also includes some of the LUC windows, at least as they were set at the end of 2015 when we prepared the calendar. But check locally to make sure that these dates are still correct, as primary dates can change.
In addition to the routine foiling deadlines, there are a few comment dates in proceedings of importance to broadcasters. For instance, Reply Comments are due April 18 in the AM revitalization proceeding (see our article here about the issues pending in that proceeding). This proceeding is viewed by many AM licensees as being crucial to their long-term survival. The FCC also is accepting Reply Comments through April 19 in its inquiry to access whether there are diverse sources of independent programming available on cable and other video distribution platforms. Also, April 22 is the deadline for comments in the FCC’s proceeding to review consumer access to navigation devices for cable programming, looking at the possibility of making available to the consumer a greater array of devices that function like the set top box.
With the continuation of the incentive auction, and many other important proceedings bubbling along at the FCC and elsewhere, there are always plenty of regulatory obligations which command the attention of broadcasters. So make sure that you are giving these dates your full attention.