2021-23 Carriage Election Deadline is October 1

Posted on August 31st, 2020 by

October 1, 2020 is the deadline for television stations to make their triennial carriage election with cable and satellite providers that will govern their carriage status on those systems during the 2021-23 carriage cycle, which begins January 1, 2021 and ends December 31, 2023.

The rules on how to make carriage elections were changed in this 2019 FCC Order with further details in this February 2020 Public Notice.  This time, instead of finding addresses, preparing and then sending separate election letters to every MVPD via certified mail, full power commercial and NCE television stations (and Class-A stations eligible for must-carry) will simply prepare and place a single election statement in the station’s online public file (in the “Must-Carry or Retransmission Consent” folder, which can be found in the “More Public Inspection Files” section).  If a station is going to elect mandatory carriage for all MVPD systems in its DMA, it can simply specify that in a uniform, blanket election statement.  Or if a station plans to elect mandatory carriage on some systems, and retransmission consent on others, the single election letter uploaded to the public file can delineate those differences for the various MVPD systems in its DMA.  A failure to upload an election statement by the deadline will result in a default election to “must-carry” status, and a violation of the broadcast public file rule (which specifically requires that the statement be timely uploaded).

If a station, for any MVPD, is changing its election choice for the 2021-23 carriage cycle from the one it used for the 2017-20 election cycle (i.e., from must-carry to retransmission consent), an election change notice for those MVPDs must be completed, uploaded to the public file as an attachment to the single election statement, and emailed to only that MVPD, copying a special FCC notification email (electionnotices@fcc.gov).  The same October 1, 2020 carriage election deadline applies to these election change notices, which must include the station’s call sign, community of license, DMA, specific change in election status, an email address, phone number, name of a station contact person, and whether the station is changing its election for some or all of the MVPD’s systems.  If a station does not receive a response verifying receipt of its change notice, or gets an indication that the message was not delivered, it must call the MVPD to confirm receipt or arrange re-delivery.  If the email is timely/properly sent to the MVPD email address, and no verification is possible, the change notice will still be considered to have been properly delivered if it was also properly copied to the FCC’s election notice email and is timely placed in the public file.  Remember, this additional “election change notice” step is only required if a station is changing its election from the last cycle for a MVPD, and then need only be sent to that MVPD.

To eliminate confusion, we recommend that at the time a station uploads its carriage election statement, all prior carriage elections in the file be removed.

After the October 1, 2020 deadline, should a station receive a carriage refusal notice, or any other notice that places carriage of the station in doubt (such as a signal strength issue), certain deadlines may be triggered to file carriage complaints with the FCC.  Stations should regularly monitor any emails received at the carriage election email address provided earlier this summer (full power stations did so via the online public file; Class A and LPTV’s eligible for must-carry simply rely upon the email address for the station in LMS).