Arizona Broadcasters Association

GOVERNMENT RELATIONS

  • Thursday, January 04, 2018 10:29 PM | Anonymous

    The following is a memo from Dawn M. Sciarrino, the ABA’s legal counsel:

    MEMORANDUM
    TO: All Broadcasting Clients and Friends of the Firm
    FROM: Dawn M. Sciarrino and Christine McLaughlin
    DATE: January 3, 2018
    RE: Upcoming FCC Deadlines and Rule Changes

    The New Year is off to a busy start for broadcasters. In 2017, the FCC adopted a number of changes to its rules, with effective dates and deadlines set for early 2018.

    Online Public File – March 1st Deadline
    Among the most significant changes for radio broadcasters is the transition of the local public inspection file to an online system accessed via the FCC’s website. TV broadcasters moved to online public files in 2014, and radio is now in the midst of a similar transition. Radio stations with more than 5 full time employees in the top 50 markets were required implement their online public files by December 24, 2017. The deadline for all other radio broadcasters to complete the transition is March 1, 2018.

    Stations may log onto the online public file at https://publicfiles.fcc.gov/admin/ using their facility ID and an FCC-assigned passcode. To obtain the passcode for a station, the licensee should login to an “Owner Dashboard” from https://publicfiles.fcc.gov/admin/owner-login/, using its FRN and its associated password. The FCC has indicated that documents should be uploaded in their “native format” wherever possible; consequently, if the document in question is prepared in Word or Excel, licensees should upload the document in its existing form unless it is technically unable to do so. If all of your stations are not populating or if you have other problems with the system, please call us.

    Please also note that, at the top of the screen in the system, you will see a statement as to whether your station’s profile is “Off” or “On” for public viewing. If that statement indicates that public view is “Off” (which is the default), you will need to click on the word “Off” to change it to enable the public to view your file.

    As of March 1st, all existing documents that are required to be kept in the local public inspection file must be uploaded to the online system, with one exception. Political documents that pre-date the effective date of the rule are exempt from the requirement that they be uploaded. Licensees may upload those pre-existing political documents if they like; otherwise, they are be retained for their two year retention period in a paper file. New political documents, however, must be uploaded “immediately.”

    The FCC will automatically upload most documents filed with it electronically or generated by it (e.g. ownership reports, assignment or transfer applications, construction permit applications, licenses, etc.). However, licensees must upload documents that not filed at the FCC and which must be maintained in the public file (e.g., Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Annual EEO Public Inspection File Reports, copies of Time Brokerage or Joint Sales Agreements, a list of any “citizens agreements”, compliance certifications for local public notice of applications, and information regarding FCC investigations). Similarly, items that are required to be placed in the public file but are filed manually (e.g., AM license applications on Form 302-AM) must be uploaded by the licensee. Stations that have a website must include a link to the first page of the station’s online public file on the website home page.

    Early last year, the FCC eliminated the requirement that stations maintain copies of correspondence from the public in their public files. Therefore, licensees need not retain a paper public file for that correspondence; if a licensee chooses to move its pre-existing political file to the online system, there will no longer be any need to maintain a physical file at all.

    Ownership Reports – March 2nd Deadline
    Biennial Ownership Reports are due to be filed on or before March 2, 2018. The FCC postponed the deadline from December 1, 2017, opening the LMS system for the filing of the Reports on that date. The FCC form 323 and 323-E can be accessed at https://enterpriseefiling.fcc.gov/dataentry/login.html. While the Ownership Reports are available for completion in LMS, the system has not previously been used for radio filings, and it is possible that some information that should prefill (for example, licenses associated with an FRN) may not do so accurately. Licensees are advised to login in well in advance of the March 2nd deadline.

    Both commercial and non-commercial licensees must file their Ownership Reports during the current window. Noncommercial broadcasters previously filed on the anniversary date of their license renewal filing, a system that was put on hold last year in anticipation of this year’s filing deadline.

    Despite the extension, filers must still provide data on the ownership of their stations as of October 1, 2017. The FCC has indicated that owners who sell their station between October 1st and the new deadline will need to file their own biennial reports, even if they no longer own any stations.
    EEO – Annual EEO Public File Report

    In April 2017, the FCC issued a declaratory ruling that a broadcaster can rely solely on online sources in its recruiting “where doing so meets the ‘widely disseminate’ requirement of the rules.” Broadcasters are free to select the number and type of recruitment sources that they use, and may even choose rely on a single online job posting, as long as doing so meets the requirement for “wide dissemination.” FCC does not require all online job postings to be accompanied by on-air information about the vacancy.

    FCC encourages broadcasters to consider three factors in deciding whether their online recruiting meets the standard: (1) whether the online job posting is easy to find; (2) job openings should be posted online for an adequate period of time with auditable interview records maintained; and (3) broadcasters should “continue to cultivate job referral relationships with resources that are likely to include diverse candidates.”

    Licensees should note that no EEO requirement was changed by the declaratory ruling. For example, even though broadcasters no longer need to reach out to community groups to meet the requirement of wide dissemination of job openings, a separate “prong” of the FCC’s EEO policy requires that broadcasters notify community groups that have specifically asks to be notified of job openings. All of the EEO rule’s non-vacancy specific outreach requirements remain in effect; consequently, all licensees must still engage in two or four (depending on the size of the station’s market and number of employees) of the outreach activities detailed in the rule for every two-year period of the license term.

    In particular, stations must still maintain all of the same documentation regarding their recruitment for job openings, as well as non-vacancy specific outreach, and must still place a report of their EEO efforts in the public file annually, on the anniversary of the filing of their renewal applications. The annual EEO Public File Report, due on the filing of your license renewal application, must both be placed in the local public file, uploaded to the online public file and posted on the station’s website, if it has one. The station may comply with its obligation to post the EEO Public File Report to its website by posting a link to the Report in the online public file, if the link connects directly to the actual report – it is not sufficient that the link connect to the home page of the public file. The EEO Public File Report must include information for the station’s employment unit (i.e., commonly owned stations in the same market that share at least one employee) for the preceding year, including a list of all full-time vacancies filled, by job title; information regarding the recruitment source(s) used to fill each such vacancy, including identifying any organizations that requested notice of vacancies; identification of the recruitment source that referred the successful candidate for each of the listed vacancies; the total number of interviewees for full time vacancies in the past year, and the total number referred by each recruitment source; and a description of the employment unit’s non-vacancy specific outreach initiatives. Supporting documentation for each of the vacancies need not be placed in the public file, but must be maintained until the station’s next renewal application is granted, and available if requested by the FCC.

    The chance of the FCC requesting that information is not negligible – the agency continues to conduct random audits of EEO compliance. As recently as mid-December 2017, it issued a Notice of Apparent Liability in the amount of $20,000 to a licensee whose audit response revealed a number of EEO violations, including failure to recruit for all full-time vacancies, failing to provide notice of vacancies to an organization who had requested notice, and failing to maintain sufficient records of number or sources of interviewees for various vacancies – a failure which, the FCC observed, prevented the licensee from preparing accurate annual reports, placing all of the required information in the stations’ public files, and effectively analyzing the its recruitment practices, all independent violations of the EEO rule. Licensees must remain mindful that the relaxation of the EEO rules with regard to the use of online job postings has not relaxed any of their other EEO obligations.

    Issues/Programs Lists – Quarterly
    Licensees must place their issues/programs lists for the fourth quarter of 2017 in their public files on or before January 10, 2018. As these lists are not filed with the FCC, the license must upload the list to its online public file. Issues/program lists for the first quarter of 2018 must be uploaded to the public file by April 10, 2018; second quarter lists must be uploaded by July 10, 2018; and third quarter lists must be uploaded by October 10, 2018. Under the electronic public file regime, the system will identify the date and time that documents are uploaded; therefore, it is critical that these items be timely uploaded to the public file.

    Elimination of the Main Studio Rule – Effective January 8th
    At its October 2017 meeting, the FCC adopted an order eliminating the requirement that a broadcast station maintain a main studio in close proximity to its city of license that is open to the public and staffed during normal business hours. The abolition of the main studio rule becomes effective on Monday, January 8, 2018.

    As of next Monday, the main studio rule, including the requirements of local programming capability and minimum studio staffing requirements, are eliminated. Licensees are be required to maintain a local or toll-free number accessible to residents of the station’s city of license, which must be answered during normal business hours of the station.

    Stations that have fully transitioned to the online public file (including by uploading existing political file materials) will no longer be required to keep any physical documents in their communities of license. However, stations that have not yet completed that transition, or that chose to maintain their pre-existing political file records in paper form, must maintain a paper file in their city of license until all of the documents required to be in the file are transitioned to the online public file. The file must be maintained at a location in the community of license that is open during normal business hours (e.g. a public library or an office of a local business).

    FM Translators – Last Call for AM Licensees
    Those AM licensees who have not filed for an FM translator in any of the filing windows opened in 2016 and 2017 will have one last opportunity to apply for a translator at the end of January. The new window will be open from January 25, 2018 to January 31, 2018 for participation in the cross-service Auction 100. Modification applications to existing translator licenses and construction permits will be frozen prior to and during the window; the filing freeze will be in place from January 18, 2018 through January 31, 2018.

    Radio Renewals
    Finally, radio station licensees should be advised that the renewal cycle starts next year. Licensees in DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia must file their renewal applications by June 1, 2019. Licensees are reminded that the renewal application requires a number of certifications, including that all documentation required to be placed in the station’s public file has been so placed, at the appropriate time. Although documents filed electronically with the FCC, such as applications and Biennial Ownership Reports, will be automatically uploaded to a station’s online public file by the FCC, licensees must take care to ensure the timely uploading of all other materials required by the public file. Under the online system, the FCC and any possible protesters will know the date that information is placed into the public file, and any delay in uploading required materials will likely be subject to scrutiny.

    The foregoing are some of the more important deadlines facing licensees in the new year and beyond. If you have questions regarding these or any other FCC requirements, please do not hesitate to contact us.


  • Thursday, August 24, 2017 10:33 PM | Anonymous

    Newly-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai visited Arizona this week, and his trip included a meeting with the Arizona Broadcasters Association. He met with ABA President & CEO Art Brooks and two ABA member-station GMs — Ed Munson, KPHO-TV / KTVK-TV and Alejandra Santamaria, KTVW-TV Univision.

    The conversation was centered on the subject of TV translators, which are critical to reach the areas in the central and northern parts of the state with free access to television. A lot of the viewers in these areas do not have cable or satellite and rely heavily on the free access through the translators for their programming, news — and especially critical — emergency notifications. Even in Phoenix 22% of the viewers in the market area depend on over the air signals.

    The television industry is already preparing for the re-packing stage of the FCC Spectrum Auction which mandates that all TV stations must broadcast at channel 36 or below. Many of the translators are above those frequencies and are being hunted by telecom giants like T-Mobile — which was the big buyer of spectrum in the auction, and Microsoft for other wireless and broadband uses. Our intent is to protect the interests of that vulnerable population that receives free TV through those frequencies.

    The Chairman of course doesn’t have immediate fixes for this problem but is studying it seriously. This is primarily a western states issue and our Congressional delegations are also being asked to help as well. Representatives Tom O’Halleran and Paul Gosar represent the largest districts in AZ and have the majority of TV translators within their jurisdiction. They have agreed to co-sponsor a letter to hopefully to be signed by the entire AZ delegation that will go to the FCC Chairman to address the issue.

    For more on the issue here’s what the National Association of Broadcasters has to say about the rush for Broadband frequencies.


  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 10:36 PM | Anonymous
    by Dawn Sciarrino, Sciarrino & Shubert PLLC

    More than half the states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws permitting marijuana use to greater or lesser degrees.  Arizona is among the states permitting medical marijuana; a handful of states, now including Arizona’s neighbors California and Nevada, permit the sale of pot for recreational use.  According to Forbes, legal marijuana sales in 2016 amounted to more than $6.7 billion, an approximate 30% growth from 2015.

    Such a large and booming industry would seem to be a tempting target for broadcasters seeking new advertising revenue.  But unfortunately, the risks of doing so are likely to outweigh the potential gain.  It is important to remember that marijuana is still illegal under federal law.  Broadcasters, as federal licensees, should think long and hard before advertising any product whose sale and possession is a federal offense.

    Although under the previous administration, the Department of Justice generally took a hands-off approach to states permitting marijuana sales, continuing forbearance cannot be counted on.  The FCC has not yet ruled on how advertising a drug criminalized by federal law would affect a broadcaster’s qualifications as a licensee; absent agency guidance, any station accepting marijuana advertising could well be putting its license at risk.

    Sciarrino & Shubert PLLC provides a free hotline to Arizona Broadcasters Association members.  Any Association member may call for answers to a wide range of legal and regulatory questions dealing with broadcasting issues, including advertising policies, political time rules, promotions, lotteries, EAS, and a host of other concerns.


  • Monday, July 31, 2017 10:38 PM | Anonymous

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a public notice outlining the upcoming nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), as well as mandatory registration and reporting deadlines for each EAS Participant.

    The national test is scheduled for 11:20 a.m. Arizona Time on September 27, 2017.  (A secondary test date is October 4, 2017, “if necessary”).  EAS Participants must be prepared to take part in a test on both the primary and alternate test dates.  All EAS Participants are required to participate in this nationwide test.

    This test will use the National Periodic Test (NPT) code, the location code for “All of United States.” FIPS number: 000000; and will be issued via FEMA Open IPAWS.

    The results of the nationwide EAS test will be captured and analyzed using the new EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS).

    Important Dates:

    1) All EAS Participants are reminded that they are required to register with ETRS and must complete the filing of ETRS Form One on or before August 28, 2017.

    2) EAS Participants shall file the “day of test” information sought by ETRS Form Two before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 27, 2017.  This is the same day as the national test.

    3) EAS Participants shall file the detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form Three on or before November 13, 2017.

    Important Links:

     FCC’s ETRS page.

    Nationwide Test Public Notice.

    EAS Operating Handbook - 2017 (pdf)

    “To Do” List for Broadcasters and Other EAS Participants, from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP (NOTE: This is from 2016 but the information is still relevant.)

  • Monday, July 17, 2017 10:48 PM | Anonymous

    The following is a letter from Arizona Broadcasters Association President and CEO Art Brooks to Gov. Doug Ducey regarding Microsoft’s request to use “white spaces” for potential broadband use by unlicensed devices.

    July 17, 2017

    The Honorable Doug Ducey
    Governor of Arizona
    State Capitol Building, 9th floor Executive Tower
    Phoenix, AZ 85007

    Dear Governor Ducey:

    It has come to my attention that Microsoft may ask you and some of your counterparts to sign a letter to the Federal Communications Commission supporting Microsoft’s request to reserve a third channel of broadcast TV spectrum – commonly referred to as “white spaces” – for potential broadband use by unlicensed devices. Such an allocation would harm rural Arizonans who rely on local TV stations, as well as the stations themselves. On behalf of Arizona broadcasters, I respectfully request that you decline supporting Microsoft’s effort.

    The FCC recently completed a TV spectrum auction in which any company interested in advancing mobile broadband use could purchase spectrum that had been sold back to the FCC by various broadcasters. Microsoft – a $540 billion company – declined to purchase spectrum in this auction which netted about $7 billion for the federal government.

    As a result of the spectrum auction, some of Arizona’s full-power and Class A TV stations that chose not to sell their spectrum in the auction must move to new channels in the condensed broadcast TV band. This process, called the “spectrum repack”, also will affect dozens of FM
    Radio stations, some of which will be forced to change transmission towers.

    Also, 133 broadcast TV translators and a number of low-power TV stations in Arizona will either be involuntarily relocated or forced off the air. Translators are used extensively in Arizona’s rural markets to ensure the far corners of these expansive TV markets are served with local news, weather warnings and Emergency Alert System messages. Because the broadcast TV band is shrinking, it is unlikely that all these services will be able to stay on the air. Reserving an additional “white spaces” channel will force more of these vital broadcast services off the air entirely.

    Unlicensed “white space” devices already are permitted to operate on any available broadcast channel and channel 37. Following the spectrum repack”, such devices also will be permitted to operate in a newly created duplex gap that separates the new mobile broadband services. Also, Congress and the FCC are actively considering other bands for use by these devices.

    Rather than risk depriving rural Arizonans of their local broadcast TV service – and the lifesaving emergency warnings stations provide – I hope you will agree that it is prudent, instead, to allow for new authorizations by Congress and the FCC that will accommodate greater use of “white space” devices. This also is the position of President Trump’s new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, as you will see in the attached comments made in a recent Obama-era proceeding on the issue. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to answering any questions you or your staff may have.

    Respectfully,
    Art Brooks
    President & CEO


  • Monday, May 22, 2017 10:49 PM | Anonymous

    June 1, 2017 is the deadline for broadcast stations licensed to communities in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming to place their Annual EEO Public File Report in their public inspection file and post the report on their station website.

    View the notice, courtesy of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in full here.


  • Tuesday, March 28, 2017 10:55 PM | Anonymous

    The following is a press release from the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family, with whom the ABA partnered for these announcements:

    PHOENIX – Governor Doug Ducey addressed the Arizona Human Trafficking Council last week, co-chaired by Cindy McCain and Gil Orrantia, acknowledging their leadership and tireless work within Arizona communities.

    “It is my privilege to recognize the ongoing work of the Arizona Human Trafficking Council,” stated Governor Doug Ducey. “The role that you play in the prevention of human trafficking and especially your tireless efforts in providing critical services to trafficking victims ensures Arizona remains a safe place to work and raise a family.”

    The Council plays a critical role across Arizona to promote collaboration with law enforcement, state agencies, municipalities and the community-at-large to address human trafficking. Last week, the Council in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family trained more than 2,000 Phoenix Final Four volunteers on key indicators related to identifying victims and connecting them to services. Each volunteer was given an indicator card that included numbers to report incidents of trafficking. In addition, the Council in partnership with the Arizona Broadcasters Association will be airing educational PSAs during the Final Four. Governor Ducey recognized this work as an opportunity to send a unified message that sex trafficking is not tolerated in Arizona.

    “Large events like the upcoming NCAA Final Four are exciting times to celebrate sportsmanship, competition and triumph,” stated Governor Ducey. “But they also provide an opportunity for us to communicate to Arizona’s citizens, to our visitors, and to anyone who dare prey on innocent victims this unequivocal message: that human trafficking will not be tolerated here.”

    The Council also heard presentations from state and national partners such as Truckers Against Trafficking, Inland Kenworth, Utility Trailer Sales and UBER. Each presentation highlighted the multiple opportunities that exist to educate local and national communities about human trafficking and how to connect victims with tangible services.

    Following the Council meeting Governor Ducey joined the council members in front of the State Capitol Executive Tower to view and take pictures of a semi-truck that will be auctioned by Richie Brothers in an effort to raise money to educate more truckers on sex trafficking through the national nonprofit, Truckers Against Trafficking. It is hoped that the truck will raise more than $100,00.00 for ongoing education.


  • Thursday, March 02, 2017 10:56 PM | Anonymous
    As part of the National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference, the Arizona Broadcasters Assocition sent a team to Washington DC to discuss important broadcasting issues with Arizona’s Congressional Delegation.

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    Arizona Broadcasters@AZBroadcasters

    Another day, another set of meetings on The Hill for the ABA! #nabslc17 #wearebroadcasters

    9:23 AM - Mar 2, 2017 · Phoenix, AZ

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      They were looking for support for the Local Radio Freedom Act and opposition to the Performance Rights Act, which would force radio station to pay twice for the same music. Ad Tax Deduction was another big topic and the ABA gained support keeping this important deduction.

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      Senator Flake Staff@SenFlakeStaff

      Thx @AZBroadcasters for meeting with @JeffFlake staff. Great discussion on the importance of local radio and tv @AzTheBeat @LocalFirstAZ

      9:56 AM - Mar 2, 2017

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      Anita Helt@Anitaabc15

      Thank you @RepMcSally for your support of @AZBroadcasters. #NABSLC17 #WeAreBroadcasters

      1:51 PM - Mar 1, 2017 · Washington, DC

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      Arizona Broadcasters@AZBroadcasters

      Thanks to @RepSinema for meeting with the ABA today to talk about issues close to broadcasters! #nabslc17

      12:49 PM - Mar 1, 2017

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      Stay tuned for more on our productive trip to DC!

       


    • Thursday, February 23, 2017 11:07 PM | Anonymous

      The ABA is once again heading to Washington DC February 25-March 3.

      For the first two days, CEO Art Brooks will attend NASBA Winter meetings where all state association executives gather to discuss the latest issues broadcasters are facing.

      On the second leg of the trip, Brooks along with the ABA board executive committee will attend the NAB State Leadership Conference.

      The final portion of the trip will take place on Capitol Hill — the ABA representatives will be meeting with Arizona Congressional House & Senate Members to address critical issues facing broadcasters.

      Meeting with Member of Congress:

      • Art Brooks, Arizona Broadcasters Association
      • Michael Mallace, Sierra H Broadcasting
      • Anita Helt, KNXV-TV ABC 15
      • Doug & Mary Martin, Good News Broadcasting
      • Rich Howe, KAZT-TV

      Issues Concerning Broadcasters to be Discussed:

      • Advertising Deductibility
      • Radio Performance Tax
      • Retransmission Consent
      • Spectrum Auction Repack issues


    • Monday, February 06, 2017 11:09 PM | Anonymous

      The Arizona Broadcasters Association has been asked by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau to notify you of the following information relating to unauthorized persons illegally gaining access to certain audio streaming devices used by broadcasters.  The notice below also contains recommended steps to prevent remote access from other than authorized devices.

      IMPORTANT SECURITY-RELATED NOTICE FROM THE FIELD OFFICE OF FCC’S ENFORCEMENT BUREAU

      It has come to our attention that unauthorized persons recently may have illegally gained access to certain audio streaming devices used by broadcasters, and may have transmitted potentially offensive or indecent material to the public.  We believe that the reported cases involved unauthorized access to equipment manufactured by Barix, which some licensed broadcasters use for studio-to transmitter (STL), remote broadcast (Remote) and similar audio connections. We understand that the unauthorized access to the devices may be due, in part, to instances where the licensee fails to set a password for devices with no default password, or to re-set default passwords on the Barix device.

      We urge licensees to take all available precautions to prevent future unauthorized transmissions.  In many cases, there may be simple, practical solutions to prevent such situations from occurring.  For example, we strongly encourage licensees that use Barix devices, as well as other transmitting equipment, to check and, if necessary, add a password, or re-set existing passwords with new, robust passwords.  Similarly, if a broadcast station experiences turnover in staff who had access to passwords, we encourage licensees to re-set the password to ensure future security.  We also recommend that broadcasters investigate whether additional data security measures, such as firewalls or VPNs configured to prevent remote management access from other than authorized devices, in some cases, could be implemented to preserve this potentially critical part of the broadcast transmission chain.  If you suspect that broadcast equipment has been subject to attempts at unauthorized access, we also recommend that you contact the equipment manufacturer and/or a data security firm.  We also suggest that you notify the FCC Operations Center, 202-418-1122, or FCCOPCenter@fcc.gov of suspected unlawful access.

      If you have any questions, please contact Lark Hadley, the Regional Director for the Enforcement Bureau’s Region Three via WR-Response@fcc.gov.


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