License Renewal Developments

Posted on April 30th, 2020 by

License renewal for broadcast stations is rolling right along, with several recent developments in that should draw your attention.

First, the Media Bureau issued a public notice announcing its procedures for television license renewal, which begin with filings in June 2020 and continue through June 2023.  The notice captures the various license renewal requirements for TV stations, making a few clarifications along the way (some in footnotes).  Stations are reminded that failure to comply with public inspection file requirements prior to the deadline for filing a station’s renewal application may result in forfeitures and may impact a station’s license renewal application.  This hints at the possibility of receiving “forgiveness” for not timely uploading a document when it was due, so long as it is corrected before you hit the submit button on the renewal application.  Fingers crossed.  Pre- and post-filing renewal announcements will follow the existing rule, but licensees are advised that such announcements need only be aired on the main channel.  We encourage all TV broadcasters to review the notice.

Next, the Enforcement Bureau issued guidance for FCC licensees or their attorneys who are requesting information about “enforcement holds” that may affect the processing of license renewal applications.  Sometimes, Enforcement places a “hold” on an application because of a complaint that they are processing about the licensee or the station.  The Enforcement Bureau will give an update on whether there are any pending enforcement cases or investigations that are delaying a renewal application grant, but only to the licensee or its designated attorney.  Third parties, such as lenders or prospective station purchasers cannot receive such information.  A proper request should receive a response within seven (7) business days.

Finally, the Media Bureau announced an update to the license renewal form for commercial radio stations.  The form now has a new question about compliance with the FCC’s multiple ownership rules during the license term, which requires a yes, no, or n/a response.  A no or n/a response requires an explanation.  The addition of this question was previously announced as forthcoming, and arose as a result of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision rejecting the FCC’s planned changes to the multiple ownership rules.  The FCC recently filed an application seeing U.S. Supreme Court review of that decision.  For now, the new question is required for commercial radio stations.  Commercial TV stations already have such a question on their renewal application.