Broadcast Television Station Reminder: FCC Form 388 DTV Consumer Education Activity Reports Due Jan. 10

By Jan. 10, 2009, all full-power television stations must electronically file an FCC Form 388 DTV Quarterly Activity Station Report with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) detailing the station's efforts to educate viewers about the digital television (DTV) transition. Consistent with the Commission's mandate, broadcast stations must provide viewers with information about the upcoming DTV transition by airing information about the transition including public service announcements (PSAs), crawls, tickers, and longer-format programs.

As part of Form 388 filed previously for the first quarter of 2008, commercial stations elected to follow one of two compliance options, while non-commercial stations selected from three options. Consistent with the option chosen, stations should have been airing and logging PSAs, crawls, tickers, etc., during the preceding three months designed to educate and inform consumers about the DTV transition in general, and the station's DTV transition plans in particular. Details about the requirements can be found in an article on our blog. As set forth in these documents, the Form 388 DTV Quarterly Activity Station Report will summarize both the mandatory and voluntary consumer education activities undertaken by a station in the fourth quarter of 2008, from Oct. 1, 2008, through and including Dec. 31, 2008.

Please note: FCC Form 388 must be filed with the FCC using the Consolidated Database System (CDBS). The form is currently available in CDBS, and stations are encouraged to begin preparing their reports in advance of the deadline. The CDBS filing system should be familiar to most broadcasters as it is used for virtually all other electronic filings for broadcast stations. The use of CDBS will also allow reports to be easily available to the public and the Commission. For more information on filing via CDBS, please visit the FCC's Web site.

In addition to being submitted to the FCC, Form 388 Reports must be retained in a station's public inspection file. They must also be posted on the station's Web site, if the station has one. In the event that a station inadvertently selected the wrong option for compliance in its first quarter report, and has, in fact, complied with a different option during the third quarter, then the station should indicate the option that it has followed in the third quarter in this filing.

The FCC has been taking the DTV consumer education obligation very seriously and has been following up with stations, both formally and informally, to address any late or missing reports. Thus, stations should be careful to comply with the requirements and to timely file their Form 388. For more information about the FCC's DTV consumer education rules, or for assistance in preparing and filing your Form 388, please contact any of the lawyers in the Davis Wright Tremaine LLP Broadcast Group.