The FCC has announced some significant changes in EAS rules, now allowing “Live Code” tests, the use of the EAS attention tones in “educational” PSA’s, and requiring stations to report “false” EAS activations within 24 hours of discovery.
Click HERE for the full 21-page order which is summarized in the release below.
Rochelle Cohen, (202) 418-1162
For Immediate Release
FCC PROMOTES EMERGENCY ALERT RELIABILITY
Action Supports More Effective Local Emergency Alert Tests and PSAs,
Addresses False Alerts, and Seeks to Improve Wireless Alerts
WASHINGTON, July 12, 2018—The Federal Communications Commission today took the latest in a series of actions to bolster the reliability of the nation’s emergency alerting systems and support greater community preparedness.
In a Report and Order adopted today, the Commission set forth procedures for authorized state and local officials to conduct “live code” tests of the Emergency Alert System, which use the same alert codes and processes as would be used in actual emergencies. These tests can increase the proficiency of local alerting officials while educating the public about how to respond to actual alerts. The procedures adopted by the Commission require appropriate coordination, planning, and disclaimers to accompany any such test.
To further enhance public awareness, today’s action will also permit authorized Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about the Emergency Alert System to include the system’s Attention Signal (the attention-grabbing two-tone audio signal that precedes the alert message) and simulated Header Code tones (the three audible tones that precede the Attention Signal) so long as an appropriate disclaimer is included in the PSA.
Today’s action also requires Emergency Alert System equipment to be configured in a manner that can help prevent false alerts and requires an Emergency Alert System participant, such as a broadcaster or cable system, to inform the Commission if it discovers that it has transmitted a false alert. In addition, in an accompanying Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Commission seeks comment on other specific measures to help stakeholders prevent and correct false alerts.
The Commission also seeks comment on the performance of Wireless Emergency Alerts, including how such performance should be measured and whether, and if so how, the Commission should address inconsistent delivery of these messages.
Action by the Commission July 12, 2018 by Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 18-94). Chairman Pai, Commissioners Carr, and Rosenworcel approving. Commissioner O’Rielly approving in part and dissenting in part. Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, and Rosenworcel issuing separate statements.
PS Docket Nos. 15-94, 15-91
ASL Videophone: (844) 432-2275; TTY: (888) 835-5322
This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC, 515 F.2d 385 (D.C. Cir. 1974).
The FCC recently released a Public Notice reminding all EAS participants that they need to file ETRS Form One by August 27, 2018. This form needs to be filed by all radio and TV stations, including LPFM and LPTV stations (unless those LPTV stations simply act as a translator for another station). While the FCC has not announced another nationwide EAS test for this year, the FCC still requires that the form be updated on a yearly basis – with a separate Form One being filed for each encoder, decoder, or combined unit used by any station or cluster.
The Public Notice provides information about where to file the form, and also links to this help page on the FCC website that provides information about completing the form. These Frequently Asked Questions are also helpful. They note the information that needs to be submitted in the ETRS form, including the geographic coordinates of the station (with latitude and longitude in NAD83), and various information about the station’s “designation”, monitoring assignments and “geographic zone” – all information that should be set out in the state EAS plan for the state in which the station is located. As it may take some time to locate all of the required information to make sure that any station’s Form One is current and accurate, stations should not delay in beginning to work on this form.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY BUREAU OPENS THE EAS TEST REPORTING SYSTEM FOR 2018 FILINGS
PS Docket No. 15-94
Today, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission provides notice to all Emergency Alert System (EAS) Participants that the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) is now open and accepting 2018 filings.
I. FILING IDENTIFYING INFORMATION IN THE EAS TEST REPORTING SYSTEM
Pursuant to Section 11.61 of the Commission’s rules, EAS Participants must renew their identifying information required by ETRS Form One on a yearly basis. Accordingly, all EAS Participants must complete the 2018 ETRS Form One on or before August 27, 2018. Each EAS Participant should file a separate copy of Form One for each of its EAS decoders, EAS encoders, or units combining such decoder and encoder functions. For example, if an individual is filing for a broadcaster (or cable headend) that uses two units combining decoder and encoder functions, that individual should file two copies of Form One.
Filers can access ETRS by visiting the ETRS page of the Commission’s website at https://www.fcc.gov/general/eas-test-reporting-system. Instructional videos regarding registration and completion of the ETRS Form One are available on the ETRS page.
To access the ETRS, filers must use their registered FCC Username (Username) that is associated with the FCC Registration Numbers (FRNs) for which they will file. Filers that have already created a Username for use with another FCC system may access the ETRS with that Username. Filers that do not remember the password that corresponds with their Username may reset it at https://apps2.fcc.gov/fccUserReg/pages/reset-passwd-identify.htm. Filers that have not previously created a Username may do so by visiting the User Registration System at https://apps2.fcc.gov/fccUserReg/pages/createAccount.htm. Filers can associate their Username to an FRN by logging in at https://apps.fcc.gov/cores/userLogin.do and clicking on the appropriate option. Additional information regarding creating and associating FRNs with a Username can be found on the CORES FAQs page at https://apps.fcc.gov/coresWeb/publicHome.do?faq=true.
II. FILING INFORMATION
All EAS Participants – including Low Power FM stations (LPFM), Class D non-commercial educational FM stations, and EAS Participants that are silent pursuant to a grant of Special Temporary Authority – are required to register and file Form One in ETRS, with the following exceptions:
Filers can update previously filed forms in ETRS by clicking on the “My Filings” menu option and then clicking on the record for that form. Broadcasters can pre-populate Form One by completing the FRN and Facility ID fields. Cable systems can pre-populate Form One by completing the FRN and Physical System ID (PSID) fields. EAS Participants that pre-populate Form One using a Facility ID number or a PSID number are urged to review their pre-populated data to ensure accuracy. EAS Participants are urged to review Form One as soon as possible to allow sufficient time for possible corrections. EAS Participants are allowed thirty days after submission (i.e., on or before September 26, 2018) to submit any updates or corrections to their 2018 Form One filings.
III. FURTHER INFORMATION
For further information regarding ETRS, contact Austin Randazzo, Attorney Advisor, Policy and Licensing Division, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, at (202) 418-1462 or email@example.com, or Gregory Cooke, Deputy Chief, Policy and Licensing Division, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, at (202) 418-2351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filers may contact the CORES Help Desk for assistance with creating a Username or resetting a password at CORESHelpDesk@fcc.gov or (202) 418-4120. Filers may contact Bureau staff for assistance in completing ETRS Form One at ETRS@fcc.gov.
The National Association of Broadcasters radio board last week voted on a proposal to revise the FCC rules limiting the number of stations that one company can own in a radio market. This proposal was forwarded to the FCC for consideration in the next Quadrennial Review of the FCC’s ownership rules, scheduled to commence at some point later this year, in a letter delivered to the FCC’s Chief of the Media Division. The NAB suggests that one party should be able to own up to 8 FM stations in any of the Top 75 Nielsen radio markets. It proposes that there should be no FCC ownership limits in markets smaller than the Top 75, and that AMs do not need to be counted against the ownership limits. Owners who incubate the ownership of stations by new entrants into broadcasting would be allowed to own up to two additional FM stations in a market. Why would the NAB take this position?
The letter sets forth many of the same issues that we cited in our article on radio ownership here. Competition is significantly different than it was in 1996, when the current rules setting limits at 8 stations in a market (only 5 of which can be AM or FM) in the largest markets, and in the smallest markets, only two stations (one AM and one FM). As we wrote in our April article, competition for listening like Pandora, Spotify or even YouTube did not exist in 1996 (not arriving on the scene for another decade). Changes in competition for local advertising has been even more dramatic, with some sources showing that over 50% of local advertising revenue (the bread and butter of local radio) is now going to digital competitors – with Facebook, Google, and even the digital music services selling advertising to local advertisers throughout the country, even in the smaller markets.
Obviously, a proposal like this one will be controversial – and the NAB notes that its Board’s decision was not unanimous. Proponents of more diversity in broadcast ownership will suggest that consolidation will hinder opportunities. Additionally, opponents will likely contend that consolidation since 1996 has not benefitted the economics of radio companies, but instead led to some being financially overextended.
Parties will have plenty of time to comment on these issues and the various suggestions as to how the rules should be changed. While some radio trade publications have been suggesting that a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Quadrennial Review was imminent, in fact we are hearing that the Notice may not be out until significantly later in the year. That NPRM will set out tentative findings of the FCC and proposals for reform of the rules. The public will likely have at least 60 days to comment on any proposals, and then there will be a period for replies. After that, the Commission will take the issues under consideration, and no doubt interested parties will meet with the decision makers to argue their positions, with no decision likely until at least late in 2019.
So any changes to ownership rules for a new radio industry will take some time to implement –if any of them are implemented at all. Watch as these issues are argued over the course of the next year.
On Friday, the Audio Division of the FCC’s Media Bureau released a letter decisionrejecting an objection filed by three groups advocating on behalf of LPFM stations against almost 1000 FM translator applications – most of which were filed to provide FM translators for AM stations in the most recent window for the filing of such applications. We wrote about the grounds for the objections here, which included claims that Section 5 of the Local Community Radio Act, an act setting some ground rules for the relationship between LPFM stations and translators, mandated that the FCC evaluate each of these applications for its individual impact on LPFM opportunities in the future. Once the objection was rejected, the FCC resumed processing of pending applications.
The letter decision found numerous issues with the objection. It noted that 55 of the applications had already been granted when the objection was filed, and 35 had been dismissed, thus the objection came too late. Additionally, a number of the applications to which the objection was directed were mere minor changes in existing translators. The Audio Division noted that the Section 5 of the LCRA, which says that translators and LPFMs are equal in status and that the FCC needed to provide opportunities for each of those classes of stations, did not apply to evaluations of modifications of existing translators, but instead only to applications for new translators.
As to the objections to the remaining applications for new translators, the FCC found that the objections did not even purport to give any details as to how the vast majority of the translator applications had any impact on any specific LPFM opportunities. Moreover, the decision noted, that nothing in the statute required that the FCC, every time it processed applications for either LPFMs or translators, to assure that there was room for stations of the other service. The services are processed under different standards and at different times. The FCC just recently had a filing window reserved for LPFM applicants – where it granted applications for about 2000 of those stations, so plenty of opportunity had been provided for LPFM stations. Nothing in the LCRA mandates that each translator application be evaluated for impact on LPFM opportunities. While the FCC did not explicitly say it, if the objection’s contention that treating LPFM and translators equally and providing opportunities for each required that each translator application be evaluated for its preclusive impact on LPFM, that same evaluation would seemingly have to be in connection with each LPFM application, assessing its impact on translator availability – in which case in some locations nothing would ever get granted as the grant of an application for one could preclude opportunities for the other.
So the objection has been resolved, and given the informal nature of the objection, appeal rights are somewhat limited. It appears that now the translator application processing will continue. So look for further action on pending applications soon.
(Webinar will be held at 2:00 p.m. EDT on June 21, 2018)
By this Public Notice, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, through its Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau announce an upcoming webinar on Wireless Emergency Alerts and the Emergency Alert System.
The free webinar will focus on issues relevant to these emergency alerting systems that affect state and local governments, such as how these systems work, who is eligible to initiate alerts, and the targeting of messages to particular geographic areas, as well as the latest developments at the Federal Communications Commission. The webinar will help ensure state and local governments are ready and able to utilize these alerting systems when they are needed. The webinar will also give participants an opportunity to ask Commission staff questions.
The webinar will be held at 2:00 p.m. EDT on June 21, 2018 through WebEx. To register, click here or copy and paste https://fccevents.webex.com/fccevents/onstage/g.php?MTID=e204c1227f16818505160288eca493190 in your web browser. On the event information, page click on the registration link, provide the required information, and then click on “Submit” to complete your registration. Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions for joining the event, the password, and the link for the meeting.
Reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request. Send an email to email@example.com or call the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice) or 202-418-0432 (TTY). Please include a description of the accommodation you will need and tell us how to contact you. Requests for special accommodation should be made as early as possible. Last minute requests will be accepted but may be impossible to fill.
The FCC today published in the Federal Register a summary of its proposed rules for resolving complaints of interference to existing full-power stations or other existing FM services from new or relocated FM translators. We summarized the FCC’s proposals in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking here and here. The publication in the Federal Register triggers the 30 day comment period. Comments are due by July 6 with reply comments due by August 6. There are certain to be many broadcasters expressing their views on the FCC’s proposals in this proceeding. Expect final FCC action late this year or sometime in 2019.
This message is from Sage Alerting Systems regarding your Sage Digital ENDEC model 3644. It applies only to users in the United States.
Sage has released a firmware update that you must install to permit your ENDEC to continue to receive EAS CAP alerts from FEMA. A FEMA signing certificate will expire at 11:45am June 24, 2018; if you do not install this update, you will not receive CAP messages from the IPAWS system after that date.
This release also updates the SSL certificate roots that your ENDEC must have in order to download alert audio files from state or county alert originators.
Please read the release notes at https://www.sagealertingsystems.com/release1-1/cr-rev4-release-notes.pdf. They will explain why this release is necessary, and what Sage will do in a subsequent release to reduce the number of this type of update in the future.
The installation process is straightforward, as is described in the release notes. Installing this update will not change any of the settings on your ENDEC.
If you have any questions regarding this update, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 914-872-4069 and press 1 for support. If you get voice mail, please leave a message and we will call you back.
In 10 days, we’ll mark the 12th anniversary of my first post welcoming readers to this Blog. I’d like to thank all of you who read the blog, and the many of you who have had nice words to say about its contents over the years. In the dozen years that the blog has been active, our audience has grown dramatically. In fact, I’m amazed by all the different groups of readers – broadcasters and employees of digital media companies, attorneys and members of the financial community, journalists, regulators and many students and educators. Because of all the encouragement that I have received from readers, I keep going, hopefully providing you all with some valuable information along the way.
I want to thank those who have supported me in being able to bring this blog to you. My old firm, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP helped me get this started (and graciously allowed me to take the blog with me when I moved to my current firm six years ago). My current firm, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, has also been very supportive, and I particularly want to thank several attorneys at the firm (especially David O’Connor and Kelly Donohue) who help catch, on short notice, my typos and slips in analysis for articles that I usually get around to finishing shortly before my publication deadline. Also, a number of other attorneys at the firm including Mitch Stabbe, Aaron Burstein, Bob Kirk and Josh Bercu have contributed articles, and I hope that they will continue with their valuable contributions in the future. Thanks, also, to my friendly competitors at the other law firms that have taken up publishing blogs on communications and media legal issues since I launched mine – you all do a great job with your own take on the issues, and you inspire me to try to keep up with you all.
I’ve posted over 2000 articles in the last 12 years. That works out to almost an article once every other day. But there never seems to be any shortage of topics to write about. In fact, what is in short supply is time – as clients and life need to come first, and blogging gets worked into the schedule when it fits. But writing this blog has become an important part of my legal practice. It has, I think, helped make me a better lawyer, as it has given me an incentive to keep up to date on developments in the law and in business that affect broadcasters and other media companies. The articles, and the opportunities that the articles have opened for speaking and otherwise contributing to industry discussions, have introduced me to many people in the industry who are there pushing these developments. Interacting with those actually in the business trenches provide even more to write about.
When we first started the blog, I don’t think that I was sure how it would turn out. But, among the many goals that I set in my first post, was the following:
So some days, the blog may just report on FCC actions. Other days, we may link to interesting or provocative news stories that we see in the trade or popular press. But sometimes, we will tackle more fundamental issues. For instance, one of the first questions we’ll have to address is just what the broadcast industry is today. While we could limit the stories in this blog to just matters about the over-the-air broadcast industry, that narrow view would be far too limiting. Broadcasting is no longer an island unto itself. Instead, each day it becomes more and more clear that the world that traditional broadcasting inhabits is one that goes far beyond those narrow areas that the FCC has traditionally defined as a broadcast service. Thus, we will be pointing out developments and legal decisions that impact not only traditional over-the-air radio and television stations, but also those in the myriad “new media” that are now so crucial to any understanding of the broadcast industry. Media “convergence,” which has for so long been nothing more than a buzz word thrown around to make it seem like we’re thinking about the future, is finally here, and cannot be ignored in a discussion of the broadcast industry.
Looking back, that may have been an ambitious goal, but it is one that we continue to try to achieve. In fact, in the last couple of months, we published articles on the Music Modernization Act, legal issues for broadcasters in digital and social media advertising, a Supreme Court decision that may provide broadcasters with new revenue from advertising for sports betting, efforts to regulate online political advertising, and potential reform of the radio ownership rules based on the plethora of new media outlets for audio entertainment. It is clear that the initial vision of a broadcasting industry that has expanded far beyond its traditional over-the-air bounds was not just the first question that we would address, but it is one that we address every week.
And there still is an inexhaustible supply of issues that we need to follow. Of course, the current FCC is very active reforming the regulatory landscape for broadcasters, which will no doubt prompt many articles. Copyright issues are also more important than ever – look for articles in the near future on what’s next for the Music Modernization Act and on how Alexa, Google Home and other voice-activated legal assistants raise royalty considerations for program providers. Expect more coverage of changes in the broadcast ownership rules, and in many areas affecting the advertising landscape, including legal issues raised by programmatic buying (about which we have written before – see for instance here and here).
Thanks again to all our readers. Keep reading, tell your friends about the blog, let me know if I can ever help you (I am, of course, a lawyer whose clients provide the resources to track all of these issues), and we’ll see what happens as we celebrate future anniversaries of the Broadcast Law Blog.
For radio and television stations with 5 or more full-time employees located in Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, NewMexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, WestVirginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia, June 1 brings the requirement that you upload to your online inspection file your Annual EEO Public Inspection File Report detailing your employment outreach efforts for job openings filled in the last year, as well as the supplemental efforts you have made to educate the community about broadcast employment or the training efforts undertaken to advance your employees skills. For TV stations that are part of Employment Units with five or more full-time employees and located in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, you also need to submit your EEO Form 397 Mid-Term Report. See our article here on the Mid-Term Report, and another here on an FCC proposal that could lead to the elimination of the filing of the form.
June 1 should also serve as a reminder to radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia that your license renewal will be filed a year from now, on or before June 1, 2019. So, if you have not done so already, you should be reviewing your online public inspection file to make sure that it is complete, and otherwise review your station operations in anticipation of that filing. We wrote about some of the issues of concern for the upcoming license renewal cycle in our article here. TV stations in those same states will start the TV renewal cycle two years from now.This month also brings to the end a number of filing windows. LPTV and TV translator stations displaced by the incentive auction have until June 1 to complete and file displacement applications, specifying a new channel for their post-repacking operations. See our articles here and here. AM stations that filed for a FM translator in the most recent window who ended up mutually exclusive with other applicants have until June 14 to file amendments to their applications to resolve the mutual exclusivity or otherwise reach a settlement, or they will end up in an auction at some point in the future. For more information, see this article. Such an auction will be held for translator applicants from the 2003 translator window that were not able to resolve their mutual exclusivity in a long-ago translator window – that auction to be held starting June 21. See this article.
June will also bring a hearing at the Federal Election Commission on the required sponsorship identification for online political ads. See our article here for more information on this FEC hearing and other activity to regulate online political advertising.
And broadcast stations using C Band earth stations to receive programming or for other uses should consider registering these dishes with the FCC, as the FCC is considering repurposing the band for other uses or allowing other wireless uses in the band used by these dishes. The FCC needs to know what users need protection or other accommodation in that band. While there is no requirement that receive-only dishes be registered, no protection will be afforded to those that do not register by July 18. See the FCC public notice on that issue here.
As always, there are plenty of other legal and regulatory issues that may affect broadcast stations – including political lowest unit rate windows in many states in anticipation of primary elections. So stay alert for those dates, watch alerts from broadcast associations, and consult your attorney to make sure that you stay on top of all of your regulatory obligations.