April 10, 2016 Quarterly TV Deadline

Clarification: This memo clarifies the filing dates listed in our April 7, 2016 memo.

This memo highlights the deadlines for first quarter reports required of all full-power and Class A television stations.

Documents That Must Be Uploaded Into Each Station’s Online Public Inspection File By April 10, 2016:

  • Issue-Responsive Programming List for programming broadcast between January 1 and March 31, 2016 (all commercial and noncommercial stations)
  • Documentation of compliance with Children’s Advertising Limits (commercial stations only)
  • Documentation that the station continues to meet Class A eligibility requirements (Class A TV stations only)

FCC Filing Due By April 11, 2016:

  • FCC Form 398 – Children’s Television Programming Report (filed by station in LMS and then FCC imports into station’s online file) (commercial stations only)

I. Community Issue-Responsive Programming Lists (All Television and Class A Television Stations)

The FCC requires that within ten days after the end of each calendar quarter, all commercial and noncommercial television and Class A stations must prepare and upload into their online public inspection file, a list of the programs that provided the most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding three-month period. There is no FCC form on which this information must be presented, but the listing is to include a brief narrative statement that identifies the issues that were given significant treatment and describes the programs in which the issues were treated. Each program description must include, at a minimum, the date, time, and title of each program and the duration of each responsive programming segment; other information, such as identification of any guest appearing on the program may also be included.

The maintenance of issue-responsive programming lists is required under the FCC’s public inspection file rule and it is the responsibility of the station to ensure that the reports are uploaded to the station’s FCC’s online public inspection file. In connection with the filing of a license renewal application, the licensee must certify that it placed/uploaded all required documents, including all quarterly programming reports, in its public inspection file on a timely basis. The FCC’s online public inspection file system tracks the precise date when each document is uploaded, so any failure to meet the deadline can be noted from even a cursory review of the online public file. It is important that your station comply with this aspect of the quarterly public inspection file requirements. Under the FCC’s forfeiture schedule, the base penalty for failure to comply with this rule is a $10,000 forfeiture (which may be adjusted up or down) and the FCC has historically not been hesitant to issue fines for public inspection file violations.

II. Children’s Television Programming Report (Form 398) and Related Requirements (Commercial Television and Class A Stations Only)

The FCC requires that within ten days after the end of each calendar quarter, each commercial television and Class A station must file Form 398, the Children’s Television Programming Report with the FCC. This Report documents a commercial broadcaster’s compliance with the children’s educational programming requirements during the preceding quarter and specifies what educational children’s programming will be broadcast during the subsequent quarter. The Form 398 is filed by the station in LMS, and the FCC automatically imports a copy of each station’s report into its online public inspection file (stations therefore do not need to upload a separate copy to their online public inspection file).

A licensee must broadcast an average of at least three hours per week of “core educational programming” on a station’s primary free digital program stream. The FCC defines “core educational programming” as television programming that:

  • Has a significant purpose serving the educational and informational needs of children 16 years old or under;
  • Is at least 30 minutes in length; and
  • Aired weekly on a regular basis between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Each core program must be identified by an E/I symbol displayed throughout the program and the station is required to provide information identifying each core program that it airs (including program’s target child audience), to publishers of program guides. The station must also publicize the existence and location of the station’s Children’s Television Programming Reports by airing announcements on a regular basis, or at least twice a month. If the number of hours of children’s programming broadcast each week varies significantly, we recommend that you carefully monitor the scheduling of these programs so that the weekly average requirement is met and that the station acquires sufficient additional half-hours of educational programming to satisfy the three-hour minimum requirement throughout each quarter.

The children’s programming requirements also apply to any free, “non-primary” multicast program multicast stream which incurs an additional ½ hour per week core programming obligation for every increment of 1-28 hours of free multicast programming aired (e.g., 29-56 hours triggers 1 hour per week; 57-84 hours triggers 1 ½ hours per week and so on). As a result, a full-time multicast program stream (broadcasting 168 hours per week) triggers an additional 3 hour per week core programming obligation. No more than 50% of the core programming counted toward meeting the additional programming requirement on a multicast channel can consist of program episodes that aired within the previous seven days on the station’s main program stream or on another of the station’s free multicast program streams.

For purposes of qualifying as core programming for programming which is preempted (typically most often preempted by network sports programming) a station must be certain to: (i) reschedule the program to its “second home;” (ii) air an announcement at the time the episode was originally scheduled to inform viewers as to when the program has been rescheduled; and (iii) inform program guide publishers of the rescheduled program date and time. A core children’s program preempted to cover “breaking news” does not need to be rescheduled and will still qualify as a core program for purposes of the quarterly report. If your educational programming schedule changes mid-quarter, you may still be able to count your programs as “regularly scheduled.” In such cases, please contact our office to review the circumstances. Also note that the FCC has issued significant fines against stations for failure to timely file the Form 398.

III. Records Verifying Compliance With Children’s Advertising Limits (Commercial Television Stations Only)

Within ten days after the end of each calendar quarter, commercial television stations must upload into their online public inspection files documentation verifying that they complied (or did not comply) with the children’s television advertising limits during the previous quarter. This documentation must identify the programs that were subject to the limits, and must reflect all instances of non-compliance. The commercial limits – 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays – apply pro rata to all programming of five minutes or longer originally produced and broadcast primarily for children ages 12 and under. This obligation also applies to multicast channels. Thus, stations may need to obtain information from their multicast stream program providers and supplement it with information about any commercial material that is locally inserted. If the station exceeded commercial limits, the certification should list all program segments where the commercial limits were exceeded and provide information that details why the excesses occurred and actions the station has taken to prevent a recurrence.

All commercial television licensees are subject to unannounced, off-air monitoring and counting of the commercial matter contained in their programming originally produced and broadcast for an audience of children 12 years old and under. Violations of commercial limits must be reported in the station’s next license renewal application. The FCC routinely issues significant fines stations for a failure to comply with the children’s advertising limitations.

IV. Documentation of Continued Class A Eligibility

Class A television stations must maintain documentation in their public inspection files demonstrating that they continue to meet both of the Class A eligibility requirements: (i) the broadcast of a minimum of 18 hours per day; and (ii) the broadcast of an average of at least three hours per week of locally produced programming each quarter. The FCC’s rules do not indicate what specific information is to be uploaded into the public inspection file or how often such documentation must be placed in the file with regard to these qualifying obligations. We recommend that your station retain either program logs demonstrating satisfaction of these requirements or a certification by station management with actual knowledge of the station’s operation detailing how the station fulfills the Class A eligibility requirements on a quarterly basis.

Please do not hesitate to call us with any questions about these ongoing recordkeeping and related obligations.

Categories: Media