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Rules? What Rules? Top 10 FCC Compliance Errors Every College Broadcast Station Should Avoid Joseph C. Chautin, III, Esq.

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Presentation on theme: "Rules? What Rules? Top 10 FCC Compliance Errors Every College Broadcast Station Should Avoid Joseph C. Chautin, III, Esq."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rules? What Rules? Top 10 FCC Compliance Errors Every College Broadcast Station Should Avoid Joseph C. Chautin, III, Esq.

2 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 2 Top 10 Mistakes Forget About Your Public Inspection FileForget About Your Public Inspection File File Your License Renewal Application LateFile Your License Renewal Application Late Improperly Complete Your License Renewal ApplicationImproperly Complete Your License Renewal Application Run Commercials On A Noncommercial StationRun Commercials On A Noncommercial Station Ignore Correspondence From the FCCIgnore Correspondence From the FCC Fail to Complete/File Regular ReportsFail to Complete/File Regular Reports Allow Broadcast of Indecent/Obscene MaterialAllow Broadcast of Indecent/Obscene Material Fail to Cooperate During FCC InspectionFail to Cooperate During FCC Inspection Provide False Information To FCCProvide False Information To FCC Be Unfamiliar With William Penn Policy StatementBe Unfamiliar With William Penn Policy Statement

3 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 3 Forget Public Inspection File Maintain at main studioMaintain at main studio Accessible during normalAccessible during normal business hours Check it periodicallyCheck it periodically Use a Checklist – license, coverage map, quarterly issues/programs list, ownership reports, EEO reports, donor lists, comments from publicUse a Checklist – license, coverage map, quarterly issues/programs list, ownership reports, EEO reports, donor lists, comments from public No. 1 source of FCC finesNo. 1 source of FCC fines

4 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 4 Filing Renewal Application Late Look at License Expiration DateLook at License Expiration Date That is NOT the date to file for renewalThat is NOT the date to file for renewal Must electronically file four months prior to expiration dateMust electronically file four months prior to expiration date Must start pre-filing annc six months prior to expirationMust start pre-filing annc six months prior to expiration Late FilingLate Filing –Admonishment for up to 11 days late –$$ Fine for anything longer Very Common ErrorVery Common Error Easy to AvoidEasy to Avoid

5 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 5 Improperly Answer Renewal Questions No. 1 Rule – never carelessly or falsely answer any question on the applicationNo. 1 Rule – never carelessly or falsely answer any question on the application Read instructions and form/questionsRead instructions and form/questions Certification Style QuestionsCertification Style Questions –Apply to entire 8 year period –Always filed ownership reports? –Always timely placed items in public file? –Fine or notice of violation? Answer “NO” and explain if problemAnswer “NO” and explain if problem –Explanation should take “deminimus” approach Amend if you discover errorAmend if you discover error

6 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 6 Run Commercials on NCE Station Noncom stations may not promote for-profits in exchange for remuneration (broad meaning)Noncom stations may not promote for-profits in exchange for remuneration (broad meaning) Years of decisions; difficult to parseYears of decisions; difficult to parse May acknowledge donations from a for-profit in neutral, factual announcementMay acknowledge donations from a for-profit in neutral, factual announcement No comparative or qualitative languageNo comparative or qualitative language Must describe without promotingMust describe without promoting No price, no calls-to-action, no inducementsNo price, no calls-to-action, no inducements Fundraising for licensee’s other business interestsFundraising for licensee’s other business interests Watch sporting events that include commercialsWatch sporting events that include commercials Fines are substantial; consent decrees now more commonFines are substantial; consent decrees now more common

7 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 7 Ignore FCC Correspondence If the FCC sends something to your station by snail mail, it is importantIf the FCC sends something to your station by snail mail, it is important Read it and take action requiredRead it and take action required Biggest problem – station never receives itBiggest problem – station never receives it –Wrong address in CDBS online filing system –Also, large campus ops lose or misdirect mail Large Fines Can Result, Even Loss of RightsLarge Fines Can Result, Even Loss of Rights Recent CaseRecent Case

8 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 8 Fail to File Regular Reports Several FCC reporting obligations for RadioSeveral FCC reporting obligations for Radio Filed with the FCCFiled with the FCC –Biennial Ownership Reports (odd years; renewal app) –License Renewal (every 8 years) Not Filed with the FCCNot Filed with the FCC –EEO public file reports (annually if no. employees) –Issues/programs lists (4/10, 7/10, 10/10, 1/10) –Donor lists (ongoing) TV also has children’s TV reporting obligationsTV also has children’s TV reporting obligations –Quarterly; varies depending on commercial/noncom status Errors always show up at renewal timeErrors always show up at renewal time

9 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 9 Allow Broadcast of Indecent Material On-Air Talent Language and Music LyricsOn-Air Talent Language and Music Lyrics Train talent and screen content (no matter how labeled)Train talent and screen content (no matter how labeled) Indecent material and profane language prohibited from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm daily; obscenity neverIndecent material and profane language prohibited from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm daily; obscenity never Indecency: language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.Indecency: language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities. Janet Jackson backlash and backlog Fines increased by Congress US Supreme Court cases FCC “Fleeting” Inquiry – hint that fleeting profanity would not violate Communications Act

10 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 10 Fail to Cooperate During FCC Inspection Happens Rarely, but very very importantHappens Rarely, but very very important Cooperation can mean the difference between fine or leniencyCooperation can mean the difference between fine or leniency Ask for identification; do not turn inspector awayAsk for identification; do not turn inspector away If you don’t know the answer, get manager or advisorIf you don’t know the answer, get manager or advisor Respond only to what you are asked for/aboutRespond only to what you are asked for/about Get contact info and follow up on an discrepancy or unanswered questionGet contact info and follow up on an discrepancy or unanswered question Fix anything on the spot that can be fixedFix anything on the spot that can be fixed After – nothing, notice of violation (NOV), notice of apparent liability (NAL)After – nothing, notice of violation (NOV), notice of apparent liability (NAL) EAS, Public File, Operating Power, Tower are Hot ItemsEAS, Public File, Operating Power, Tower are Hot Items

11 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 11 Provide False Information to FCC FCC has power to put station license in hearingFCC has power to put station license in hearing Determines if licensee is fit to remain licenseeDetermines if licensee is fit to remain licensee Applies in all written and verbal communicationsApplies in all written and verbal communications –Reports –Inspections –Public File Employee Actions Imputed to LicenseeEmployee Actions Imputed to Licensee How Do They Find Out?How Do They Find Out? –Current or former employees –Want to do the right thing –Disgruntled –Personal axe to grind

12 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 12 William Penn Univ Policy Change May 2013 FCC Policy Change Missing quarterly & ownership reports Consent Decree in lieu of large fine 3 year operating conditions; $2500 fine New Student-Run Station Policy –Limited Circumstances –Primarily student-run NCE stations (500) –Limited budget = inability to pay –Staff turnover = increased chance for errors –Big fine could force station off the air

13 Rules? What Rules? Copyright 2013 HCCB, LLP. All Rights Reserved. 13 William Penn Univ Policy Cont’d Only applies to paperwork errors –Ownshp reports, qtrly issues, filing annc Does not apply to contest, indecency, underwriting, or technical rules Students must fill all positions except for faculty advisor FCC will notify station of violation and present consent decree and smaller fine Only available to first-time offenders Significant change, but narrow criteria

14 Rules? What Rules? Answers to Your Questions Links on Blog/Newsletter signup


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