Broadcast Station Quarterly Reports Due April 10, 2006
As the end of the first quarter approaches, broadcasters should be preparing for the quarterly public file and FCC filing obligations applicable to broadcast stations. Specifically, the Issues/Program List discussed below must be completed by all broadcasters, while the children’s programming obligations apply to TV stations only. Additionally, we would be glad to provide information relating to ongoing obligations under the Commission’s EEO and local public inspection file rules, upon request.
Issues/Programs List (All Stations)
All full power TV, Class A TV and radio stations (except for exempt noncommercial educational broadcast stations) are required to maintain a list of programs “that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding three month period.” This list is to be put in the station’s local public inspection file by the 10th day following the end of each quarter (i.e., by April 10 for the January-March quarter). The list should include a brief narrative describing the issues given significant treatment by the station and the programming that provided this treatment. The list should include the time, date, duration, and title of each program in which the issue was treated. All issues/programs lists should be retained in the station’s public file until final action on the station’s next license renewal application. Stations have been fined for not having these lists in their public file.
Children's Programming (TV Only)
A) Compliance with Commercial Limits: By the 10th day following each quarter (i.e., by April 10 for the January-March quarter), every full power commercial and Class A TV station should place records in its local public file demonstrating compliance with the commercial limits on children’s programming established in the Communications Act and FCC rules. Those limits specify that no commercial television station shall air more than 10.5 minutes of commercial matter per hour during children’s programming on weekends or more than 12 minutes of commercial matter per hour during children’s programming on weekdays. For purposes of this rule, children’s programming refers to programs produced and broadcast primarily for an audience of children 12 years of age and younger. Note that any commercial matter that relates to the subject of the program in which it appears could turn the entire program into a program length commercial, and thereby violate the commercial limits.
B) Children’s TV Programming Reports: Also by the 10th day following each quarter, every full power commercial TV broadcast licensee is required to complete a Children’s Television Programming Report on FCC Form 398, describing efforts made by the licensee to serve the educational and informational needs of children. (This requirement does not apply to Class A TV stations.) This form is required to be filed electronically at the FCC with a copy placed in the station’s local public inspection file. The public file copy of this Report must be kept separate from other public file materials and FCC rules require publication of its existence and location. We would suggest using an on-air announcement that coincides with the filing and placement of the Report in the station’s public file.
The Report identifies programs specifically designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children and explains how so-called “Core Programming” qualifies as such. To qualify as Core Programming, a program must serve the educational and informational needs of children 16 years of age and under (in contrast to the commercial limits applicable to programming aimed at children who are 12 or younger), must air between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on a regularly scheduled weekly basis and must be at least 30 minutes long. All Core Programming must be identified by displaying the E/I symbol throughout the program.
Any licensee that has aired at least three hours per week of Core Programming, averaged over a six month period, will be deemed to have satisfied its obligations to air such programming, and shall be deemed to have satisfied that requirement in its renewal application. Licensees that do not meet these processing guidelines will be required to demonstrate compliance with the Children’s Television Act prior to grant of their renewal application. These Reports should be kept in the station’s public file until final action on the station’s next license renewal application.
C) New Rules Stayed: In 2004, the FCC enacted additional children’s programming requirements that were originally scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2006. These requirements included 1) expanding the definition of “commercial matter” to include program promotions; 2) precluding any program from counting as Core Programming f it is pre-empted more than 10 percent of the time per quarter; 3) counting the display of web addresses as commercial matter, unless a four-part test is met; and 4) banning the display of Web addresses if the Web site uses program characters to sell products or services. However, the FCC has stayed the effective date of these rule changes pending reconsideration. A joint proposal was recently filed by a coalition of industry and public interest groups, seeking modification of these rules. The Commission has solicited comment on their proposals, as described in our advisory of March 20, 2006. Please let us know if you wish to participate in this proceeding.
Please contact us if you have questions or desire further information regarding any of the above matters or other FCC-related issues.