The Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

News Items Archive: 2020

12/17/20 – The FCC has moved quickly to exercise some new powers, granted under the recently passed Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation (PIRATE) Act. The Public Notice sends a message that landlords knowing about and permitting pirate stations on their property can be fined as much $2 million under Section 1.80. Right on cue, the Enforcement Bureau has sent letters to three landlords in New York notices of potential liabilities. 1    2    3 .

12/8/20 – The FCC kicked off another 5G spectrum auction, this time selling off 280 Megahertz of prime mid-band spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band — a portion of the C-band. Some analysts predict this auction might end up with $38 Billion for the Treasury.

12/3/20 – Disney has announced that Radio Disney and Radio Disney Country will cease operations in Q1 2021. Job losses will be modest, as the company has been scaling back Radio Disney operations for some time.

12/1/20 – The FCC has started a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to permit changes in the way the FM Boosters may operate. Specifically, at hand is the idea of “zonecasting” … where different boosters may run separate items.

11/30/20 – There will be a new chairman of the FCC next year. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced his plans to leave the Commission on January 20th. This might leave two seats open as President Trump has not re-appointed Mike O’Rielly for a new term. Talk about possible new head of the Commission includes Commissions Jessica Rosenworcel and former Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Also pending is Nathan Simington’s nomination, currently held up in the Senate.

11/19/20 – The Western Association of (Canadian) Broadcast Engineers (WABE) 2020 convention recognized Laverne Siemens with the RW Lamb Award for his lifetime achievement in the industry. The convention was “virtual” this year, like so many others, so please cue your applause!

11/18/20 – Starting today, if you need to file Forms 314, 315, 316, or 345 (assignment of Construction Permits), you need to go and use the LMS system as the CDBS database continues its run toward decommission. The Public Notice is here.

11/10/20 – Prospective Commissioner Simington’s hearings hit a snag when Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) put a “hold” on the nomination. The “reason” stated was concern of whether the FCC should change the Section 230 shield used by social media in view of recent actions that some deem as censorship.

11/3/20 – The four towers that served WMAL for decades were demolished. The video from drones is pretty dramatic. A close up is in this one. A lot of homes are to be built on the 75 acre site.

11/2/20 – For commercial stations (AM and FM) public notification of filings has changed. Use of local print media is not required in most cases, for example, replaced by on-line links to the Public File.

11/2/20 – The FCC has now set into operation new rules for NCE FM and LPFM stations. It mostly relates to new forms and filing procedures and some technical things like LPFM Directional antennas.

10/27/20 – The FCC today approved, as expected, provision for AM stations to convert to all-digital operation. This will be a voluntary option, allowing operation as analog, hybrid, or full digital modes.

10/27/20 – Unlicensed operations in TV “White Spaces” has been expanded by the FCC’s action at this week’s Public Meeting.

10/19/20 – The FCC, in a Public Notice, is asking for comment on a proposal to limit new applications for NCE FM stations to deter what it terms “speculative filings.” Parties that file may not hold attributable interests in more than ten applications in the 2021 NCE FM Window. Acknowledging the ten year gap since the last Window, the Commission is seeking to prevent filing loads like the 13,000 applications in 2003. Earlier limits had reduced acceptable filings to 3600+ in 2007.

10/18/20 – The FCC has opened an NPRM to adjust the fees charged for “services” to users.  The idea is to more closely match the fees to the actual costs in time and people to receive and deal with applications. Comments are invited until November 16th, with reply comments due November 30th.  Your can see the NPRM here, with tables of proposed fees for AM in paragraph 61, commercial FM in paragraph 67, and translators in paragraph 74.

10/16/20 – The move that only took 5 1/2 years: Not that they were (or are) accepting visitors at this time, the FCC has now left the Portals behind and is in a brand-new office tower at 45 L Street N.E. The move is two miles from the Portals, and comes three years after the lease had ended, but the FCC is said to be saving  more than $100 million going forward.

10-14-20 – Cumulus has turned in the licenses for two more AM stations: WJLG and WBMQ, Savannah, GA. One of them, WBMQ, has been on the FCC “Silent” list since July, along with 86 other AM stations. Some are already over the one year deletion date (although there may be some leeway with the pandemic), along with 249 FM, LPFM, and translator stations. Reportedly, a lightning strike put the finish on these two stations.

10-9-20 – There is a new director for FCC field operations. Axel Rodriguez has taken the position after seven years as a supervisor in the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology lab. Rodriguez is in charge of the FCC’s 13 field  offices enforcement efforts, pirate radio, and post-disaster communications restoration.

10-6-20 – The AES convention, held virtuallly during October, is free for BDR readers. Our friend David Bialik has extended this free access to BDR readers. Register at: and chose the “Showcase” Registration Category. Then apply the promo code AES2020DB at check-out.

10-5-20 – The FCC appears ready to vote to permit all-digital transmissions on AM during the Commission’s October Open Meeting. As part of Chairman Pai’s efforts to “revitalize” AM, he wanted to have this voted on before Commissioner O’Rielly leaves at the end of the year.

9/23/20 – Nautel has released an app for transmitter control that does not rely on browser-based Flash. This app does not require a transmitter visit. (You may recall that the browser makers have pledged to drop Flash support at the end of the year.)

9/17/20 – The FCC turned down a request by Rep Mark Green (R-TN) to permit broadcasts by churches to exceed the power limits in Part 15. Allowing waivers would “undermine the Commission’s goal of ensuring the integrity of the already-crowded FM radio spectrum,” according to Chairman Pai, and would remove critical protections for licensed broadcasters, who provide critical up-to-the-minute information needed in the local communities.

9/17/20 – Nathan Simington has been nominated by President Trump to fill the seat of departing FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. Simington has been a senior advisor at the National Telecommunications and Information Adminsitration (NTIA) and an advocate of some restrictions on Internet Social Media. O’Rielly had been against such changes, but was also involved in the order to allow Ligado Networks to put 5G signals next to radar and GPS.

9/10/20 – The NAB has announced that the 2021 Spring Show will be held in the … autumn – October 9-13, 2021.

9/8/20 – More spectrum for 5G is being proposed by FCC Chairman Pai. In a draft proposal, he indicates a plan to “take decisive steps toward making the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available” in the contiguous US.

9/8/20 – Are we staring at the future of broadcasting? After six months of shutdown from the corona virus, most every broadcaster has had to deal with staffers and guests in widely varying remote locations – and with a variety of equipment solutions. So, it is not surprising that there is tremendous pressure to permanently reduce the footprint of station clusters. For example, one company (Entercom) plans to reduce the $70 million they pay in rent each year by using the tools and procedures developed this year and apply them in ongoing operations.

9/4/20 – The FCC has issued two Public Notices ( One  –  Two ) regarding the payment of 2020 Regulatory Fees. The Commission notes that all payments must be electronic. Additionally, they will accept requests for some relief, such as extended payments, provided they are received by September 25th.

9/1/20 – The FCC announced that the Regulatory Fees for 2020 are due September 25th.
The Report and Order and NPRM still has to be published in the Federal Register but the fees are due.
There is information in the R&O that simplifies requests for waivers for fees and payment dates that may be granted, as well as some adjustments in the fees themselves.

A new Public Notice lists the fees and the key iformation.

8/27/20 – The FCC WTB has extended the deadline for stations to decide whether to accept a “lump sum” payment for C-Band upgrades. The deadline is now September 14th.

Our friends at LinkUp Communications note that there were several things from the FCC that were included the recent NAB webinar with FCC personnel that were unsettling:

  1. They could not tell us if a single mistake would throw out a “lump sum” election.
  2. They weren’t very clear about how you would electronically file a letter without a form.
  3. The election letter would have to be signed by an officer of the organization and include certification by a Notary Public.
  4. There was a statement about perjury and legal issues that means the station could be at risk from issues related to the “lump sum” election.

The C Band Timeline:
– Sept. 14, 2020 Earth Station (downlink) owner must decide whether to participate in the satellite owner transition or opt out for lump sum.
– December 08, 2020 —  Auction begins (top 46 markets)
– December 05, 2021 — Phase 1 deadline: 3700-3820 to be cleared in 46 top PEAs
– December 05, 2023 — Phase 2 deadline: 3700-4000 to be clear nationally
– December 05, 2025 — Sunset of all FSS license protection for 3700-4000

8/26/20 – The NBC affiliate in Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) sustained major damage to its STL tower, with debris reportedly impacting the station’s studio. Meanwhile, Cumulus Media’s building is gone, one of its stations announced – all the stations were off the air for a while. By Friday afternoon, three were back up. Other stations were affected including KWSL-LP (CBS).

8/11/20 – The word is that 3.45 to 3.55 GHz is going to be released by the Department of Defense for use by full power commercial G5 operations. This is “mid-band” spectrum that will be auctioned off once the FCC has control.

8/10/20 – The FCC surprised some by eliminating the duplication rule 73.3556, not just for AM, but for FM as well. The decision, announced during the August Open Meeting, elicited some strong opposition from some commissioners. The Commission says the changes “will help struggling stations stay on the air; afford broadcast radio licensees greater flexibility to address issues of local concern in a timely fashion, particularly in times of crisis; assist with format changes; facilitate a potential voluntary digital transition in the AM service; and ultimately allow stations to improve service to their communities.”

8/10/20 – In a letter to a Congressional inquiry, FCC Chairman Pai has indicated a window for new NCE FM applications should be open later this year. Staff is not quite so optimistic on timing, but the thought is perhaps early next year.

8/10/20 – The Pentagon plans to free up 100 megahertz of the military’s “mid-band” spectrum that is being used for shipboard and airborne radar systems so it can instead be utilized to deploy 5G wireless technologies, and the Federal Communications Commission should be able to start auctioning it off at the end of next year so it can used as soon as mid-2022. Michael Kratsios, the U.S. chief technology officer, said the timeline is unusually fast for such a transfer of spectrum from federal to commercial use, which is designed to aid in the United States’ broader efforts to beat China to 5G deployment. (The Associated Press)

8/6/20 – It used to be that any station that had a “unique” transmission site they had to make it available to other potential users or the FCC would not renew their license. The latest FCC Report and Order deletes that requirement.

8/3/20 – The SBE announced its National Meeting will be held online, and the technical sessions and expo are cancelled for 2020.

7/14/20 – FCC Chairman Ajit Pai officially marked the conclusion of the RePack process and told carriers that they could begin to deploy 5G services on the 600 MHz band. It is true a few TV stations have not completed their move as yet, but as Pai announced, it is time for 5G.

6/30/20 – The Portals is history. The FCC circulated a memo to staff that they will not be returning to offices until at least August 27 – and then not at the Portals, but at the new building they have been planning for several years.

6/19/20 – The FEMA announced today that the 2020 NPT for the IPAWS has been cancelled. The next test will be in 2021.

6/9/20 – The FCC is continuing its 2020 EEO Audits. The Public Notice, requirements, and the list of the 35 stations randomly “selected” are here.

6/3/20 – The NAB has announced that the 2020 NAB Radio Show in Nashville and the NAB NY have been cancelled. Looking ahead, the plan for the Radio Show in New Orleans is for September 21-24, 2021. In a related note, the January CES is still “on” for 2021, with both on-site and digital sessions.

6/2/20 – The pair of letters DHS issued in March to help broadcasters access transmitter sites and get fuel during the Covid-19 crisis have officially expired. However, we are told a new letter has been released. Most state broadcast associations have links to the letters. Of course, for those of you with First Responder status, this may or may not help – as would be driving a marked station vehicle.

6/1/20 – The FCC has announced that the five satellite service providers have agreed on an accelerated clearing of the C-Band in favor of 5G installations. This could shorten the transition period by two years. How this affects stations/services will depend upon location and will be announced by the services.

5/25/20 – ATSC 3.0 service has been launched in Las Vegas, joining six other cities now hosting the new transmission standard.

5/21/20 – Like so many other conventions, the IBC (Amsterdam) has been cancelled for this year.

5/19/20 – Major trouble in Chicago: a four-foot flood swamped the basement of the Willis Tower early Monday morning, causing the ComEd power substation to fail. The failure was so severe that the entire building was evacuated, and the FAA notified there were no tower lights. Many stations decamped to the Hancock Building, but, in some cases, manufacturers were racing to provide spare transmitters. No relief is expected until the weekend.

5/18/20 – Sad to say, we have lost another broadcaster who has helped a lot of us over the years. Bob Groome passed away a week ago Sunday. Cancer took him at 77.

5/15/20 – 32 Bipartisan senators have urged the FCC to reconsider its grant to Ligado as “harmful and hurried.” This is the proposal to locate Ligado’s satellite operations next to the GPS frequencies.

5/13/20 – The FCC has adopted its new set of Public Notice Obligations for broadcasters. The main effect is that with online notices, augmented by on-air directions to the notices; no longer are printed notices in the newspaper required. 

5/12/20 – The FCC has released its report on the 2019 NPT EAS test. It looks iike 82% of radio broadcasters and 68% of TV stations filed Form2/3 on reception. You can see the whole report here.

5/4/20 – As the industry reels from layoffs all over the place, the FCC has offered a bit of help in bringing staff back – waiving the EEO requirement that broadcasters engage in a “broad outreach” to fill any full-time job position. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the FCC will allow a limited waiver to the rehiring of station employees that were laid off due to the pandemic, if the employee is then rehired within nine months of being laid off.

5/4/20 – Start of a trend? A petition at the FCC is requesting that FM boosters be allowed to originate limited amounts of programming separate from the main station. The original petition is supported by the NAB. Meanwhile, some 24 owners calling themselves Broadcasters for Limited Program Origination have added a petition to further expand the alternate origination to translators. The NAB is not currently in favor of this.

5/4/20 – A series of copper thefts around Omaha and Nebraska City – including some severe damage done to some of the equipment – show that site security is still important, especially now with the reduction in technical staffing at so many stations. With a lot of transmitter sites in rather rural or isolated areas, not having some sort of security – even the relatively cheap video doorbells – is just not smart. Although there is no “one fits all solution,” Kevin Kidd has some suggestions that you should consider.

4/30/20 – The FCC has been planning a move to 45 L St. NE for some time, and the delay is now extended by the COVID-19. Today they announced they will have a new FCC Seal to be used as they move to their new site.

4/23/20 – The FCC plans to change 73.3580 regarding public notice on the filing of applications. This is planned for the FCC’s May Open Meeting.

4/23/20 – The FCC has adopted changes to the 6 GHz band to allow unlicensed WiFi systems.

4/23/20 – The FCC has amended Parts 73 and 74 in order to update and improve several regulatory aspects, giving more flexibility for LPFM licensees, solving some issues and stating their position on some requests. This is in response to Media Bureau Dockets 19-193 and 17-105.

4/22/20 – Public Radio Satellite Services (PRSS) is currently in a program to replace receivers. PRSS announced a delay due to both station staffing issues and problems in accessing the PRSS backup transmission site. Several more weeks of delay are anticipated, but delivery will commence this summer.

4/20/20 – Ronan O’Rahilly passed away at 79. O’Rahilly was the founder of Radio Caroline in 1964, which began the “Pirate Radio” industry off the coast of England.

4/8/20 – The FEMA has tried to reduce confusion on any use of EAS or WEA for use in advising people to reduce any non-essential travel: Any alerts should use CEM and NOT SPW. The thinking essentially is that Shelter-in-Place is “go somewhere and do not come out until authorities say so,” and is not the same as “Stay-at-Home.”

4/5/20 – Regulatory Alert! Many churches, especially, are trying to set up transmitters in their parking lots for Sunday services and/or Easter Services. Not to put too fine a point on it, the FCC Rules for FM means that you probably have only a few feet that can be broadcast legally. A Part 15 AM transmitter might get you several miles. Equipment might be hard to find.
Of course, one might argue that putting so many in a parking lot might be a problem these coronavirus days – or that the FCC Field Agents are not likely to be out on Sunday. However, if an over-powered transmitter spits out harmonics or other things that might affect, say, airport frequencies, you might run into some issues. Perhaps the best solution is to partner with a local full-power station to run services…

3/31/20 – Regulatory Alert! Many churches, especially, are trying to set up transmitters in their parking lots for Sunday services and/or Easter Services. Not to put too fine a point on it, the FCC Rules for FM means that you probably have only a few feet that can be broadcast legally. A Part 15 AM transmitter might get you several miles. Equipment might be hard to find.
Of course, one might argue that putting so many in a parking lot might be a problem these coronavirus days – or that the FCC Field Agents are not likely to be out on Sunday. However, if an over-powered transmitter spits out harmonics or other things that might affect, say, airport frequencies, you might run into some issues. Perhaps the best solution is to partner with a local full-power station to run services…

3/25/20 – The current coronavirus pandemic has caused the FCC to change the schedule for Auction 105 and postponed Auction 106.

3/24/20 – Pirate Hunters might apply. The FCC has included in its new budget $11 million to hunt down what it says are some 300 illegal stations on the air in the US.

3/23/20 – As might be expected in this rather unusual time, visitors are not welcome at the FCC right now, nor are paper applications, filings, etc. The FCC expects most all “contact” to come on the web site. Anything confidential that must be sent on paper should go to the FCC’s Annapois MD address.

3/20/20 – The NAB has released a notice they intend to produce a digital “NAB Show Express” to launch sometime in April, and now plans to increase the size of the Fall NAB show in New York.

3/16/20 – The DHS has issued a pair of letters designed to help broadcasters access transmitter sites and get fuel during the Covid-19 crisis, since a number of places are putting on curfews in time and location. Of course, for those of you with First Responder status, this may or may not help – as would be driving a marked station vehicle.

3/16/20 – This is not news to most, but CBS in NYC had to evacuate the facility. Also Cumulus in Atlanta had to quarantine their studios. There are many more. In some places, the authorities have mandated non-essential workers stay home. The point here is that *every* station should have a plan to deal with this sort of situation. What would you do if your studios became unavailable or there was a severe power outage? The time to put a plan in place is *now.*

3/10/20 – The NAB has cancelled the Spring Show for April. NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith says “… keeping the community safe and healthy is NAB’s highest priority; therefore, we are deferring to the developing consensus from public health authorities on the challenges posed by coronavirus.” The NAB is still weighing “the potential path forward.” That means the cancellation may hold, or a rescheduling may be announced at some future time.
In recent days, Adobe, Sony, Ross, Zaxcom, and others have cancelled attendance. Also potential attendees from Asia had been cancelling because they could not get into the US – or at minimum would be quarantined for two weeks.

With many gatherings cancelled as well (SXSW, Concerts, etc), a number of universities closing their classrooms, and companies stopping travel plans, NAB’s announcement is unfortunate, but expected. The NAB Show brings in $46-48 million each spring.

2/27/20 – As expected Chairman Pai’s plans for C-Band were passed. He wants to pay satellite providers nearly $10 Billion, plus “transition” costs. The Commission has now released several documents, including a “Fact Sheet” …  185 pages of material on how the Commission sees things developing. An auction is now scheduled for December 8, 2020. Broadcasters may not like sections like paragraphs 119-121, 130-131, and 139. Only those that registered downlinks are being offered reimbursement at this point.

2/27/20 – The FCC has also determined to find cell phone companies some $200 million for failing to protect users’ locations. T-Mobile US Inc. is expected to be fined more than $91 million, $57 million for AT&T Inc., $48 million for Verizon Communications Inc. and more than $12 million for Sprint Corp.

2/17/20 – With the election season underway, it is worth taking a moment to ensure you are in compliance with the FCC’s rules on political advertising. Yes, there are rules about the price you can charge, but there is also a newer requirement that stations running political ads from third parties must now list all the issues presented in their on-line public file. Yes, this is a real stiff requirement. Some groups are working to kill it, but for the moment, it is best to comply.

The entire FCC Order, from October is here. Note Page 3. We suggest that if you have any questions, a quick check with your DC Attorney is in order. They may already have provided some guidance on their website, or made arrangements to answer specific questions.

2/13/20 – The FCC has announced its budgetary plans for Fiscal Year 2021, with the FCC keeping 1,448 Full-Time Equivalent employees and asking for a 1.2% budget increase to $343,070,000. Additionally, the FCC has asked for almost $135 million for spectrum auctions. You can read the FCC’s plan here.

2/11/20 – It was sixty years ago when Congress began efforts to stop or curb Payola in the broadcast industry. DJs Wesley Hopkins of KYW in Cleveland and Stan Richard from station WILD in Boston testified at hearings, each admitting to receiving $12,000 or more in 1958 and 1959. They claimed the money was “listening fees” from the record companies for “evaluating the commercial possibilities” of songs.

On February 11, 1960, President Eisenhower condemned Payola. Quickly Congress piled on, saying Payola was an abuse of the public trust – the airwaves being the property of the people of the USA. The FCC moved to make Payola a crime. Among those affected: Dick Clark (American Bandstand) and Alan Freed, a DJ in Cleveland. Clark recovered his career, Freed did not.

1/27/20 – The President signed the PIRATE Act, which raises the fines for unauthorized opertation to $2 million.

1/27/20 – Senate Commerce committee has passed the SMART Act, which seeks to set parameters for an auction to re-align 280 MHz of the 3.7 – 4.2 GHz or C-Band. The Spectrum Management And Reallocation for Taxpayers Act assigns payments to satellite carriers and receivers for costs of movement to allow 5G operations in the area. (This bi-partisan Bill, cannot, of course, go anywhere until the Senate Impeachment Trial is over. )

1/27/20 – More layoffs have been reported this week, now totaling about 1500 from iHeart. Ohio Senator Brown has said he would start hearings if iHeart cannot explain why huge bonuses are being paid to executives while so many are laid off.

1/15/20 – Major layoffs have been reported in small to medium markets around the country at iHeart Media. Reports seem to place the size of the cuts to 850 to 1000 persons. Several have commented that this was the sad but expected logical outcome for large companies from the  elimination of the Main Studio Rule on January 1, 2018. Some small/medium market stations have lost their entire air staff – many with long years of tenure – and will be programmed centrally.