Broadcasters and a Government Shutdown

Posted on September 28th, 2023 by

As Congress continues to debate budgetary legislation, the possibility of a government “shutdown” beginning October 1 looms.  In prior government shutdowns, the FCC has prepared for and halted access to certain filing platforms.  But thus far, the FCC has not issued any news releases or preparatory public notices about a shutdown or their potential operations during a shutdown.  Given critical filings and deadlines in early October, we are hopeful that the FCC will continue business as usual, at least in the early days of a shutdown.

The filing window for biennial ownership reports opens October 1, and although it extends through December 1, the preparation and time needed for some reports means that the loss of any filing days because of a shutdown would throw a significant wrench into the works.  The scheduled October 4th National EAS Test could also be affected, as would the required filing of test reports in the FCC’s ETRS system.  A loss of LMS would interrupt preparations for the LPFM filing window as applicants work on applications for filing in the first week of November.  If the FCC were to halt access to the online public file system, TV carriage elections due October 1st and quarterly reporting due October 10th could also be impacted.  Finally, ongoing political races mean political ad requests are being received that must be uploaded to the online public file within 24 hours of receipt, which would not be possible if the OPIF system was unavailable. While the FCC would later extend filing deadlines, the chaos and strain on filing systems that follows can be frustrating for broadcasters trying to complete required compliance actions.

So, what can you do now?  The best thing to do is complete any early October online public file uploads before the end of this month.  This is especially critical for TV stations electing between must carry or retransmission consent for the 2024-26 carriage election cycle, the deadline for which is October 1.  Late uploads of election statements can result in a loss of carriage rights.  The other thing you can do is follow the FCC’s daily releases or check the website for any announcements regarding filing systems and extended deadlines.

We sincerely hope there are no interruptions in FCC systems if there is a government shutdown.  But if there is, we will be ready to assist stations in understanding and completing their compliance actions in accordance with any FCC announcements.