On May 13, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released an Order modernizing the notice requirements associated with filing certain broadcast applications. These requirements apply to both TV and radio broadcasters, with the pertinent requirements depending upon the type of application being submitted. The current rule requires certain broadcast applicants to provide written notice in a local newspaper, other applicants to provide on-air public notice, and some applicants to provide both newspaper and on-air public notice.
The new rule eliminates the newspaper publication requirement and replaces it with a requirement that a written public notice be posted online on a publicly accessible website that includes a link to the application. On-air notices will direct listeners and viewers to the Commission's online databases where they can view and comment on the application.
Online Written Public Notice Requirement
In lieu of requirements that broadcast station applicants publish public notice in local newspapers, "written" (as opposed to on-air) notice will require posting on a publicly accessible website for 30 days, beginning within five business days of the FCC's acceptance of the application for filing.
Websites for Posting Online Notice
In order of availability, online notice may be accomplished by posting on:
- (1) The website of the applicant station;
- (2) The website of the applicant station's licensee;
- (3) The website of the applicant station's parent entity or, if there is no applicant-affiliated website;
- (4) On a locally targeted, publicly accessible website, defined as an Internet website that:
- (a) Members of the public can access without payment, registration, or any other requirement that the user provide information or respond to a survey or questionnaire in exchange for being able to access the online notice; and
- (b) Is locally targeted to the area served and/or to be served by the applicant station (e.g., local government website, local community bulletin board website, local newspaper website, or state broadcasters' association website).
Method for Posting
Posting may be accomplished by inserting a tab or link at the top of the home page of the selected website conspicuously labeled "FCC Applications," that will link to a separate page containing the text of the notice(s) including a hyperlink to the application. A broadcaster that has an application (app) for its station, designed to be installed on users' mobile devices, must include in the app a link to the web page containing the full notice text.
Proposed Notice Text
The Commission proposes that the following text be used for online notice.
- For authorized stations (with a granted construction permit or license):
On [DATE], [APPLICANT NAME], [PERMITTEE / LICENSEE] of [STATION CALL SIGN], [STATION FREQUENCY], [STATION COMMUNITY OF LICENSE], filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for [TYPE OF APPLICATION]. Members of the public wishing to view this application or obtain information about how to file comments and petitions on the application can visit [INSERT HYPERLINK TO APPLICATION LINK IN APPLICANT'S ONLINE PUBLIC INSPECTION FILE (OPIF) OR, IF THE STATION HAS NO OPIF, TO APPLICATION LOCATION IN THE MEDIA BUREAU'S LICENSING AND MANAGEMENT SYSTEM; IF AN INTERNATIONAL BROADCAST STATION, TO APPLICATION LOCATION IN THE INTERNATIONAL BUREAU'S MYIBFS DATABASE].
- For proposed stations that have not been authorized, we propose the following text:
On [DATE], [APPLICANT NAME], [APPLICANT FOR] [A NEW (STATION TYPE) STATION ON] [STATION FREQUENCY], [STATION COMMUNITY OF LICENSE], filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for [TYPE OF APPLICATION]. Members of the public wishing to view this application or obtain information about how to file comments and petitions on the application can visit [INSERT HYPERLINK TO APPLICATION LOCATION IN THE MEDIA BUREAU'S LICENSING AND MANAGEMENT SYSTEM; IF AN INTERNATIONAL BROADCAST STATION, TO APPLICATION LOCATION IN THE INTERNATIONAL BUREAU'S MYIBFS DATABASE].
Noncommercial Education (NCE) Stations
Noncommercial educational stations remain exempt from requirements to provide written public notice, and can fulfill their local notice requirements solely through on-air announcements, except in cases where the NCE station has not commenced program operations or is off the air.
Silent stations must provide online notice in lieu of on-air announcements.
Authorization Under Section 325(c) of the Act, Relating to Foreign Broadcast Operations
Applicants for authorization under Section 325(c) of the Act to supply programming to foreign broadcast stations must provide online notice on a website locally targeted to the principal area to be served in the United States by the foreign broadcast station Online Notice Requirements. The Commission's Order retains the exemption from local public notice for stations applying for Section 325(c) authorization for special event programming only.
On-air Announcements Relating to Broadcast Applications
The Order revises requirements regarding on-air public announcements relating to broadcast applications as follows:
The Order eliminates all pre-filing announcements.
Number of On-air Announcements
The new rules require a total of six on-air announcements, at least one of which must air each week over a period of four consecutive weeks, beginning no later than five business days after release of the Commission public notice announcing acceptance of the relevant application for filing. On-air announcements aired in the same week must not air on the same day.
Timing of On-air Announcements
On-air announcements must be broadcast between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. local time. The announcements must begin airing no later than five days after the release of the Commission public notice announcement of the acceptance of the application for filing.
On-air Announcement Scripts
The notices must include the following text specified by the FCC:
- For stations with an OPIF – On [DATE], [APPLICANT NAME], licensee of [STATION CALL SIGN], [STATION FREQUENCY], [STATION COMMUNITY OF LICENSE], filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for [TYPE OF APPLICATION]. Members of the public wishing to view this application or obtain information about how to file comments and petitions on the application can visit publicfiles.fcc.gov and search in [STATION'S CALL SIGN] public file.
- For stations without an OPIF – On [DATE], [APPLICANT NAME], licensee of [STATION CALL SIGN], [STATION FREQUENCY], [STATION COMMUNITY OF LICENSE], filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for [TYPE OF APPLICATION]. Members of the public wishing to view this application or obtain information about how to file comments and petitions can visit www.fcc.gov/stationsearch, and search in the list of [STATION'S CALL SIGN] filed applications.
Television broadcasters must display on-screen the full text of the on-air announcement during the verbal broadcast of the announcement.
Channel Sharing and Multicasting
The Order reminds broadcasters that each station in a channel sharing agreement has an independent obligation to broadcast appropriate on-air announcements on its own program stream. Additionally, the Order clarifies that on-air notice provided solely over a broadcaster's primary stream is sufficient to meet a station's notice obligations.
International Broadcast Applications
International broadcast stations, governed by Subpart F of Part 73 of the Commission's rules, must publish notice of the application on a website that targets the local community in which the international broadcast station's transmission facilities are located or are proposed to be located (e.g., local government Internet website, local community bulletin board Internet website).
Other Aspects of the Public Notice Rules
- The order does not add any additional categories of applicants, broadcast services, or application types for which local public notice is required.
- LPFM Stations. The Order clarifies that LPFM stations will continue to have the same local public notice obligations as other NCE radio stations, i.e., on-air announcements only, except when the station is unbuilt, off the air, or silent.
- Hearing Designation Orders. The updated public notice requirements apply to public notice of hearing designation orders.
- Applicants must continue to certify in any application for which public notice is required that they will comply with the applicable requirements of the local public notice rule.
- License renewal applicants that are obliged to provide public notice only through on-air announcements must continue to add to their OPIF the list of dates and times the required on-air announcements were broadcast.
- The Order eliminates the requirement that the on-air license renewal announcement script be added to an applicant's OPIF.
- The Order eliminates the public notice requirement for withdrawal of an application pursuant to an agreement to resolve mutual exclusivity.
The rule changes adopted in the Order involve modified information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act, and have been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review and approval. At the time this advisory was published, only the change to section 73.801 of the Commission's rules, codifying the local public notice rule applicability to LPFM stations has become effective.
Changes to the other rules will become effective on the date specified in a notice that will be published in the Federal Register following OMB approval. The FCC's Media Bureau will release a Public Notice at that time announcing the effective date of the remaining rule changes.
This article was originally featured as a communications advisory on DWT.com on July 20, 2020. Our editors have chosen to feature this article here for its coinciding subject matter.