Shutdown Uncertainty: What Broadcasters Should Do Now

Wondering how the federal government shutdown affects your broadcast station’s regulatory compliance obligations? Because some of the FCC’s online systems are up and running while others are not, it can be confusing as to what is still required of broadcasters. We have sorted through the confusion to help you understand what should still be prepared and/or filed, looking ahead through the beginning of February.

Aside from filings related to the post-Incentive Auction TV Transition (a/k/a the Repack) and certain political file matters, regulatory compliance filings for broadcast stations technically are not due during the shutdown. However, because the FCC has directed that any reports and filings that were due during the shutdown will be required to be filed within two (2) days of the federal government reopening, we recommend that you still prepare reports and make filings on time. This will allow you to be ahead of the curve when the FCC’s systems come back online.

Tower Lighting (Full and Low Power Radio and Television): During the shutdown, the FAA’s Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) reporting system is still functioning – thank goodness, as this is the system that lets pilots know where your tower is if the lights are out. As a reminder, tower owners (or the broadcasters on the tower, if the tower owner fails to report) are required to report a lighting outage within 30 minutes, or as soon as possible after discovery of the failure.

All Full-Power Radio and TV stations (and Class A TV):

  • Issues Programs Reports – JANUARY 10 DEADLINE: The online public file system is not accessible during the government shutdown. However, stations’ obligations do not cease during the shutdown. Thus, please prepare your quarterly issues-programs report as usual, with the following differences: 1) note on the document the date of preparation and that it was not uploaded to the OPIF due to the government shutdown, and 2) if you still maintain the main studio, print a copy on the off chance that someone wanders in and ask to review it.
  • Political File: The shutdown of the OPIF site means that stations are unable to upload new materials to their political files and that the materials already in the file are not available online.  The FCC previously has instructed that under such circumstances each licensee nonetheless is obligated to make its political file available during normal business hours at an “accessible location” in its community of license.
  • Annual EEO Public File Reports/Mid-Term EEO Reports – FEBRUARY 1 DEADLINE: In case this shutdown drags on, be aware of the following deadlines.
  • Annual public file reports: ALL radio and TV stations in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma with 5 or more FT employees must prepare their annual EEO public file report. Go back to the way you used to do it: simply upload to your station website rather than upload to the online public file.
  • Mid-term EEO Reports: Television station employment units in New York and New Jersey with 5 or more FT employees must also file the FCC Form 397 Mid-Term EEO Report. This report is available for filing in the FCC’s CDBS system. There are no radio mid-term EEO reports due at this time.

Full-Power and Class A TV stations only:

  • Children’s Television Reports– JANUARY 10 DEADLINE: The Form 398 Children’s Television Programming Report is available to file in the FCC’s system, so stations should still file by the 10th. As with the I-P reports, however, there is no OPIF where the report will be viewable by the public, so we recommend printing this out as well in case someone comes looking.
  • Children’s Programming Commercial Limits Certifications– JANUARY 10 DEADLINEBecause the OPIF site is not available, prepare your commercial limits certifications as you normally would but note on there the date prepared and the caveat that the document was not uploaded due to the government shutdown. Print a copy.
  • Class A Television Continuing Eligibility Certificate– JANUARY 10 DEADLINE: if your normal practice has you preparing a Class A continuing eligibility certificate each quarter, do one by January 10 and make the same notations above about date of preparation and non-upload to the online public file because of the shutdown. Print a copy.

Repacking Full-Power and Class A TV stations:

  • Transition Progress Reports– JANUARY 10 DEADLINE: All quarterly and benchmark post-Incentive Auction transition progress report remain due on their regular schedules and can be filed online via the FCC’s LMS system on Form 2100, Schedule 387. Translation: ALL repacking stations must file their regular Q4 2018 transition progress report by Thursday COB; any stations currently in transition or coming up on transition also must file their benchmark transition reports (example: there is a report due 10 weeks prior to the transition to your new channel).
  • Form 399 (Reimbursement Requests): The Form 399 is also available and should continue to be updated as appropriate.CommLawBlog
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