FCC Actions Directed At Broadcasters During Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted on March 30th, 2020 by

During the second half of March, as coronavirus measures across the United States began to impact broadcasters, the FCC took several proactive measures designed to facilitate and help broadcasters manage through those impacts.  Several are highlighted in this article.  The FCC’s leadership and Media Bureau personnel are continuing to be proactive, and we have easily reached staffers and received prompt responses. We expect this to continue in the weeks to come.  Except as noted in this article, regular deadlines remain in place, so please plan accordingly.  If your circumstances prevent you from completing a required action, please let us know as soon as possible, preferably in advance.

If you left your office without the passcode for your station’s online public file, you can use your FRN and password at this owner dashboard link to produce the passcode you need for each station.  If you need help, let us know.

The FCC’s Audio Division began working remotely first (the rest of the FCC Media Bureau and other staff followed).  When the Audio Division began working remotely, they issued this public notice addressing interruptions to noncommercial stations on university campuses that closed and on how to make certain types of non-electronic filings and/or who to email in certain circumstances.

Late on Friday, March 27, 2020, the Media Bureau issued a public notice extending the deadline for commercial full power and Class A television stations to file their children’s TV report from March 30th to July 10th.  Also, the deadline for all broadcast stations to file their 1st quarter 2020 issues/programs list was moved from April 10 to July 10.  In both instances, the FCC urges stations that can to follow the original deadline.

The FCC indefinitely delayed Auction 106 for new commercial FM stations, suspending all deadlines, and dismissing previously filed FCC Form 175 short form applications.  For those entities that remitted their upfront payments, the FCC will reimburse those funds approximately 2 weeks after receiving the request.

The Media Bureau issued guidance clarifying that stations providing free advertising to companies during the coronavirus pandemic need not include those free spots in their political lowest unit charge ad rate calculations.  On a related note, as voting primaries are rescheduled to later dates, the lowest unit rate time periods (45 before a primary, 60 days before a general election) for candidate ads get pushed back as well.

The Media Bureau also established a temporary waiver process for allowing entities providing important coronavirus news/information via brokered television stations so that they can exceed the amount of programming provided and not violate the television ownership/attribution rules.

For television stations in phases 9 and 10 of the post-auction repack, the FCC issued a public notice that any station scheduled to complete its transition in phase 9 that believes it may be unable to meet the May 1, 2020 deadline will be granted a waiver of the phase 9 deadline and reassignment to phase 10, which begins on May 2, 2020, and ends on July 3, 2020.  The extension/reassignment is not automatic.  A request must be filed in LMS and copied via email to FCC staff.

The FCC also closed its open window for hand-delivery filings and issued a public notice on how to submit such filings.

In addition to all of these broadcast-related actions, the FCC has taken numerous, almost daily actions to ensure that Americans have enough bandwidth to telework and promote telehealth.  Their March meeting will be held as scheduled via teleconference.

As mentioned above, broadcast stations should not presume that any construction permit, temporary authority, EEO reporting, license renewal or other regulatory deadlines have been relaxed.  Unless mentioned above, or in future FCC releases, all general and specific regulatory deadlines remain the same.  If your station has unique circumstances that require special relief, let us know right away and we’ll seek/obtain that relief for you.