The Federal Communications Commissions is giving broadcasters more time to submit any documents and filings that were to be turned in during the 23 days the agency was closed. Earlier this month the FCC said the paperwork was to be in its hands on the second day of normal operations. But in an public notice released Tuesday, the FCC said all quarterly filings to be placed in a station’s online public inspection file must now be in there by Feb. 11. That includes the requirement that stations place such things as fourth quarter program/issue lists or noncommercial station fundraising reports into a station’s online public inspection file on the FCC portal.
The FCC has also announced that any Special Temporary Authority (STA) authorizations that expired between Jan. 3 and Jan. 29 have been given an automatic extension through Feb. 8.
For broadcasters involved in deal-making, the FCC’s informal 180-day transaction shot clock for review of transactions, which was suspended on Jan. 2, was restarted on Jan. 29. That means if Jan. 2 was day 101 on the shot clock for a deal, then Jan. 29 is day 102.
This week’s filing deadline related to the pending proceeding focused on AM radio skywave protections has also been pushed back. The first round of comments had been due Jan. 22 when the FCC was closed. Under the updated calendar, those filings are now due Feb. 8. Reply comments are still currently due by Feb. 19.
“While we recognize that the above schedule does not afford an extension of time equal to the length of the shutdown in all cases, we believe these extension periods are reasonable under the circumstances, including the fact that many electronic systems remained available to the public during the suspension of operations,” the FCC said, adding, “Commission staff will consider requests for further extensions in individual matters as appropriate.” Read the full public notice HERE.
One deadline that remains in place, at least for the time being, is the Feb. 1 due date for EEO Midterm Reports (Form 397) for stations in eight states, including Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma. Those forms will need to be uploaded into a station’s online public file by Friday. It’s likely to be the last time those reports will be required, as the Commission is currently considering whether to abolish the requirement.
The EEO Mid-Term report proposal will be part of a rescheduled February Commission meeting that is absorbing the items that had been slated to be considered during the January meeting. By moving up the meeting one week, from Feb. 21 to Feb. 14, the Commission aims to tackle a backlog that not only includes a vote on whether to eliminate the Form 397 filing requirement for radio and TV stations, but also whether to launch a rulemaking into changing how noncommercial FMs and low-power FMs are awarded as well as giving LPFMs more time to construct a station. The Commission will hold its January meeting on Wednesday to comply with federal law, although with no items on the agenda it has said it will only be an opportunity for announcements to be made.
The revised timing of the February meeting may also be a defensive maneuver by FCC chair Ajit Pai. Under the agreement between Congress and President Trump, the federal government only has enough funding to remain fully open through Feb. 15. If no extension or final deal is signed, there is a potential the partial shutdown will resume after that. By moving the Commission meeting to Feb. 14, Pai is assured to at least get something done in case he’s forced to turn off the lights again.