Rapid Rollback of Broadcaster Regulations Underway

Posted on April 27th, 2017 by

Chairman Pai has been very busy on many fronts, but perhaps none more than the broadcaster front. He has now either initiated or completed rule changes on a number of issues affecting broadcasters, and at the National Association of Broadcasters convention, announced in a speech that he is launching a top-to-bottom review of broadcast regulations. So we expect even more change, relaxation or elimination of rules in coming months. In Chairman Pai’s words, he wants the FCC to “get out of the way” of industry where regulations don’t make sense anymore. It has been so long since broadcasters had any regulatory relief that the events of the past several weeks, quite frankly, have our heads nearly exploding.

Here are a few highlights, so far, under Chairman Pai, not in any particular order:

  • the FCC’s 13-year old policy of requiring a newspaper advertisement to ensure wide dissemination of a job vacancy by stations with five or more full time employees is now dead. Online-only recruiting is now permissible;
  • altering a more than 30-year old prohibition on third-party fundraising for NCE radio and TV stations, the FCC has now ruled that such stations may interrupt regular programming to fundraise on behalf of third party 501(c)(3) recognized non-profit entities, up to 1% of their annual airtime (certain public file disclosures required);
  • in the TV ownership arena, the FCC has reinstated a 50% discount for UHF TV stations when calculating population count against the 39% national ownership cap;
  • board members of noncommercial radio stations have been exempted from any requirement to provide date of birth and SSN information forpurposes of ownership reporting and diversity tracking.
  • the age-old requirement to retain comments from the public in the broadcast station public inspection file has been eliminated (effective date coming soon); and,
  • numerous transparency initiatives, including the practice of releasing drafts of orders at least 30 days before an agency vote on major decisions.

Announced, but not yet underway:

  • notice of proposed rulemaking to eliminate the pre-World War II main studio rule for all broadcast stations, which would apparently mean the concurrent death of a policy that has long required “meaningful presence” at the studio during normal business hours, defined as two full time employees (see article in this newsletter);
  • filing window for new FM translator applications for AM stations that did not participate in the 2016 filing windows, anticipated late summer 2017 (see article in this newsletter);
  • elimination of the TV/Newspaper cross-ownership rule (an archaic yesteryear regulation which, in our opinion, has contributed to the demise of newspapers nationwide).



Probably on the horizon, with petitions for rule changes pending.

  • modification of the interference rules for FM translators (no procedural move by the FCC yet in response to petitions filed, and no comments from Commissioners via blog or otherwise) (see article in this newsletter); and,
  • modification of the TV ownership 39% national cap

There are other antiquated or senseless regulations that burden broadcasters unnecessarily. You probably know a few. Well, when Chairman Pai launches his top-to-bottom review, make sure you file comments pointing out other rules that no longer provide a meaningful public interest “dividend.” The FCC is in full de-regulatory mode. Amen to that.