By July 10, 2020 (extended from April 10, 2020), all radio and television broadcast stations, both commercial and noncommercial, must prepare a list of (1) important issues facing their communities of license, and (2) the programs aired during January, February and March (2020 Q1) and during April, May and June (2020 Q2) dealing with those issues. All TV stations and radio stations must post these documents to the FCC's online public file database (OPIF), which can be accessed through this link.
By July 10, 2020 (extended from March 30, 2020), all commercial full power and Class A TV stations must (1) prepare and file their initial annual Children's Programming Report, and (2) post online documentation demonstrating compliance with the limits on commercial matter aired during children's programming.
All radio and TV broadcast stations must prepare Issues/Programs lists within 10 days after the end of each quarter. The quarterly Issues/Programs list is station specific and, therefore, each station should have its own list, describing programming broadcast on that station addressing issues of importance to its viewers or listeners.
The quarterly Issues/Programs list should reflect the "station's most significant programming treatment of community issues." Thus, a station needs to identify issues of importance to its community of license that it has determined to be of significance during that quarter, and the programming that was responsive to those issues. In the past, the FCC had mandated identification of five to 10 issues per quarter. While the FCC no longer requires identifying a specific number of issues, that range remains a good target.
Although broadcasters have discretion in deciding the specific programs that address the identified issues, all stations must broadcast some programming that does so. Each program must be identified, including the title and length of the program, as well as the time and date on which it was aired. The description should include a brief summary of the contents of the program, sufficient to demonstrate how the program addressed the identified issue.
Failure to have a complete and timely set of quarterly Issues/Programs lists can lead to significant fines either at license renewal time or following an FCC inspection. Even stations that are off the air pursuant to Special Temporary Authority from the FCC must still prepare an Issues/Programs list stating their status (if off air for the entire quarter), or provide a list of programs for that portion of the quarter for which they were broadcasting.
Children's TV Programming Reports
As we have advised, the FCC has made significant changes to the Children's Programming requirements. Most of these changes went into effect on September 16, 2019, including the obligation to file annual rather than quarterly children's programming reports. The first annual reports must be filed by July 10, 2020 (as extended) on FCC Form 2100, Schedule H (formerly FCC Form 398).
Under the Commission's current guidelines, stations are required to air an average of at least three (3.0) hours of "core" children's programming per week (as averaged over a six-month period) or 156 hours annually. (Former guidelines required three hours of core programming per week per digital stream. The requirement for additional core programming attributable to multicast streams was eliminated as of September 16, 2019.) Up to one third of a station's children's programming can be broadcast on a multicast stream, as described in our recent advisory.
Core children's television programming is defined as programming that is:
- (1) Designed to meet the educational and informational needs of children aged 16 years or younger as one of its significant purposes;
- (2) At least 30 minutes in length;
- (3) Identified throughout the program with the educational/informational (E/I) symbol or "bug" (now applicable to commercial stations only);
- (4) Aired weekly at a regularly scheduled time between the hours of 6 AM (formerly 7 AM) and 10 PM; and
- (5) Identified at the time of airing and to program guide publishers as being "core programming" designed for a specific age range of children.
Stations also are reminded to provide the required on-air identification of core programs that are specifically designed to educate and inform children. Thus, core children's programming must contain the E/I bug superimposed on the program to identify the program as meeting the educational and informational needs of children. (This requirement has been eliminated for noncommercial TV stations only.)
Stations have been fined for insufficient documentation showing compliance with the children's rules or for missing documentation during the license term.
Accordingly, stations should prepare and post all forms and certifications required by the Commission's rules to avoid potential problems. Documentation should be retained throughout the station's current license term.
Special Rules for Class A TV Stations
In addition to all of the requirements discussed above, the FCC requires that Class A TV stations maintain information in their (online) public files sufficient to demonstrate their continuing eligibility for Class A status, i.e., that they are on air at least 18 hours per day, that they have broadcast at least three hours per week of locally produced programming, and that they have otherwise observed the rules that apply to full power TV stations. Similarly, these records should be retained throughout the station's current license term.
Repacking Transition Progress Report
Except in certain situations described here, full-power and Class A TV Stations repacked by the incentive auction have a quarterly obligation to file a Repacking Transition Progress Report (FCC Form 2100—Schedule 387) by July 10, 2020, informing the FCC (and the public) of steps that they have taken to implement the channel change, assuming the station has not already been licensed on its new channel. In addition to the quarterly reports, repacked stations must also file Transition Progress Reports (1) 10 weeks prior to their construction deadline; (2) 10 days after construction is complete; and (3) five days after ceasing operation on their pre-auction channel.
This article was originally featured as a communications advisory on DWT.com on July 6, 2020. Our editors have chosen to feature this article here for its coinciding subject matter.