Posted on March 30th, 2021 by

In recent weeks, the FCC’s Media and Enforcement Bureaus have issued advisories or reminders on certain broadcast station obligations.  Typically, such reminders are issued when the Bureaus begin seeing a recurring issue or realize that there may be some widespread non-compliance.

Both Bureau reminders were issued on March 12, 2021, but on different topics.

The Media Bureau reminder was to commercial broadcast stations about items that belong in the online public inspection file, specifically to ensure that every “sharing” agreement pertaining to the operation of the station be uploaded to the file.  The Bureau noted the various types of such agreements, noting specifically those that involve the lease of airtime, the joint sale of advertising, or the sharing of operational services, and cited the rule requiring that a lease of broadcast time to a third party be uploaded to the public file within 30 days.  The footnote to that example cited a 2010 case imposing a $25,000 forfeiture on a station for failing to place a time brokerage agreement in its public file.  The Bureau’s notice went on to note that uploaded documents can have confidential or proprietary information redacted.

The Enforcement Bureau advisory reminded broadcast stations of their continuing obligation to provide sponsorship identification disclosures in accordance with FCC rules.  Under Section 73.1212, when a broadcast station transmits any matter for which money, service, or other valuable consideration is either directly or indirectly paid or promised to, or charged or accepted, the station, at the time of the broadcast, must announce that the matter is sponsored, paid for, or furnished (whether in whole or in part), and by whom or on whose behalf such consideration was paid or supplied.  Licensees must exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining the required information, including from its own employees.