FCC Shutdown Aftermath

Posted on November 5th, 2013 by

In connection with the Congressional debate on government funding and the shutdown of most government functions earlier this month, the FCC shuttered its doors and website for 16 days, from October 1-16, 2013.  While we were not surprised that the FCC would not accept filings during the shutdown, we were not expecting that the FCC’s website would be completely disabled such that stations were prevented from at least working on and saving drafts of reports or applications, or more importantly for TV stations, placing items in their FCC web-hosted online public files.  In fact, by disabling its website, the FCC precluded the public from accessing TV online public inspection files, an action that – if taken by a TV station, either purposefully or inadvertently – would have warranted heavy fines from the FCC. 

Left on the skeleton of a webpage was a somewhat cryptic message related to deadlines.  It directed that the deadlines for any filings due during the shutdown would be moved to the first full business day after government funding was restored.  Given that stations could not even prepare drafts of reports, the FCC’s announcement left precious little time for stations to complete filings once operations were restored. 

But alas, when funding was restored and the FCC returned to work on October 17th, the FCC decided to change its prior announcement, issuing a public notice suspending all filing deadlines that occurred during the shutdown or that would occur on or before October 21.  Then, later that same day, the FCC issued a 7-page all-encompassing public notice on revised filing deadlines, superseding its October 1st and 17th public notices.  Confused yet?  

Thankfully, the 7-page public notice has not been changed.  With some exceptions, filings due between October 1-6 became due on October 22nd, and filings due between October 7-16 became due 16 days after the original filing date, an extension equivalent to the period of the FCC’s closure.  Further, the FCC extended any regulatory and enforcement filings due between October 17th and November 4th until November 4th

Explaining that it could not waive statutory deadlines such as those associated with petitions for reconsideration, the FCC instead announced that it would not consider itself open for statutory deadline filings until October 22nd – in effect extending the deadline for such filings until that date. 

Finally, the FCC announced that any STAs expiring between October 1-22 were automatically extended until November 4th.

No word from the FCC on whether the December 1, 2013 deadline for commercial station biennial ownership reports will receive an extension.  But the loss of 16 days of a 62-day filing window for those reports could be critical to some broadcasters.  If extended, the Media Bureau will issue a public notice announcing the extension.

We hope that another FCC shutdown doesn’t arrive anytime soon.  The compliance and deadline issues are a bit mind-warping, and broadcasters have enough to worry with already.