2008 promises to be a busy year for broadcasters, with elections, the ongoing transition to digital television, cable carriage elections for television stations, and new EEO filings triggered at the mid-point of license terms for radio stations in a number of states. Amidst all of this activity, broadcasters are dealing with the regular quarterly and annual filings, such as children's programming reports, EEO public file reports, ownership reports and annual FCC regulatory fees that will be required over the course of the year.
This bulletin provides busy broadcasters a useful preview of, and some guidance for, many of the important dates that are already on the calendar. The calendar in this bulletin is not meant to be exhaustive. Some of these dates will change and additional filing deadlines will be added, however, the calendar will provide broadcasters a roadmap for some of the larger issues that are already visible on the horizon.
The issue to note in particular is the future addition of disclosure requirements for full-power television and Class A low power television stations. The Commission has adopted, but not yet released, rules that will require the posting of at least some portion of the television station public inspection file on the station's website, if it has one. The Commission has also adopted, but not yet released, a standardized form for the quarterly reporting of programs aired by television stations responsive to the needs and interests of their communities. Once these rules and forms are available and become effective, television stations will have additional filing obligations and public file requirements, which are not reflected in this advisory. Additional information about these obligations will be released in subsequent advisory bulletins and on our blog at www.broadcastlawblog.com.
This year, the election calendar will set lowest unit rate periods for broadcasters around the country—45 days before each primary and 60 days before the general election. That period began in 2007 for the presidential primaries in many states, including those holding their primaries on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5. We have tried to note the dates for the commencement of the lowest unit rate period for other federal elections on this schedule. However, many of the primary dates are subject to change, and there may be other windows not noted on this list for lowest unit rate periods preceding state and local elections. Remember, political windows set the time during which stations must apply lowest unit rates to political candidates (federal, state and local) who buy time on a station. Other political rules, including reasonable access and equal opportunities, apply even outside of the 45- and 60-day windows, as soon as you have legally qualified candidates. See our Political Broadcasting Guide, for more information about political broadcasting topics.
Given all the controversy about music royalty issues that we heard about in 2007, and which may continue into the new year with respect to the debate over the performance royalty for over-the-air broadcasting, we have also included as a reminder the monthly obligations to pay SoundExchange royalties for streaming of music on the Internet. Also remember that, for at least two weeks each quarter, reports must be filed with SoundExchange on the actual songs you streamed on the Internet. Information about these obligations can be found under the topic “Internet Radio” on our blog, www.broadcastlawblog.com/articles/internet-radio. In addition, forms for these filings can be found on SoundExchange's website: www.soundexchange.com.
Here are some of the important dates for 2008:
- January 10 – FCC Form 398 Children's Television Programming Reports Due. By Jan.10, all commercial full-power television stations and Class A LPTV stations must prepare and file an FCC Form 398 Children's Programming Report for the fourth quarter of 2007 with the FCC.
- January 10 – Children's Television Commercial Limitations Certification. In addition to broadcasting programming responsive to the educational and informational needs of children, the FCC's rules limit the amount of commercial material that can be aired during programming aimed at children. In order to demonstrate compliance with this rule, stations must prepare and place proof of compliance with the commercial limitations in the public inspection file every quarter. Thus, by Jan. 10, stations must prepare and place in their public inspection files proof of compliance with the children's television commercial limitations for the fourth quarter of 2007.
- January 10 – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists. By Jan. 10, all radio and television broadcast stations, both commercial and noncommercial, must prepare and place in their public inspection files a list of important issues facing their communities, and the programs aired in the months of October, November and December dealing with those issues.
- January 10 – Class A LPTV Stations Demonstration of Continuing Compliance. The FCC requires that Class A TV stations maintain in their public files sufficient information to demonstrate their continuing eligibility for Class A status—e.g., that they have broadcast three hours per week of local programming, broadcast 18-hours a day, and otherwise observed the rules that apply to full-power TV stations. While the FCC has not mandated that this report or certification be made quarterly, the preparation of the Quarterly Issues Programs lists would seem to provide a good opportunity to prepare such documentation. Accordingly, by this date, Class A stations are encouraged to prepare and place in their public inspection files information sufficient to support their continued eligibility for Class A status.
Political Windows for Lowest Unit Rates:
- January 19 – Lowest Unit Rate Window Opens. Jan. 19 is the first day of the Lowest Unit Rate period for the presidential primaries and caucuses to be held on March 4. According to the list of presidential primary dates available on the website of the Federal Election Commission, states holding their primary or caucus on March 4 are: Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont.
- January 19 – Lowest Unit Rate Window Opens. Jan. 19 is the first day of the Lowest Unit Rate Period for the congressional primaries to be held on March 4. According to the list of congressional primary dates available on the website of the Federal Election Commission, states holding their primary on March 4 are: Ohio and Texas.