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Regulations FAQs

Station Ownership

What are auxiliary services?: Auxiliary services are designed to enhance the operation of broadcast stations. These services include experimental stations, low power auxiliary stations, remote pick up stations, aural broadcast auxiliary stations and TV broadcast auxiliary stations.

  1. Experimental Stations:
    Licenses for these stations are issued for the purpose of carrying on research for the advancement of broadcast technology and equipment. Amateur stations are not included. Experimentation is primarily performed in the 10 MHz to 3000 MHz bands.
  2. Low Power Auxiliary Stations:
    Licenses for these stations are issued for the transmission of cues or orders to production personnel and participants in broadcast programs and motion picture production. Such stations are intended to transmit within distances of 100 meters.
  3. Remote Pick Up Stations:
    Licenses for these stations are issued for transmission of material, cues, orders, frequency coordination, etc. from the scene of events back to the studio or production center.
  4. Aural Broadcast Auxiliary Stations:
    Licenses for these stations are issued for Studio Transmitter Link (STL) and Inter City Relay (ICR) operations. STL operations are used to transmit material between a studio and the transmitter. ICR operations are used to transit programs between stations.
  5. TV Broadcast Auxiliary Stations:
    Licenses for these stations are used for TV pickup, TV STL, TV Relay and TV translator relay operations. TV pickup involves a mobile station which is used for the transmission of programs from points removed from the studio. A TV STL is a fixed station that transmits material from the studio to the transmitter. A TV Relay is a fixed station to be used to transmit material between stations or from a remote pickup receiver site. A TV Translator relay is a fixed station that is used to relay programs of a TV station to an LPTV or TV translator.

    How do I take over a station?: Section 310 of the Communications Act of 1934 prohibits the transfer of control or assignment of license of a broadcast station without the prior consent of the FCC.

    • Affirmative Control: consists of ownership of MORE than fifty percent of the voting stock or other voting control.
    • Negative Control: consists of ownership of EXACTLY fifty percent of the voting stock or other voting control.
    • There are four different FCC forms that can be used in seeking the Commission’s approval of a transaction, all of which must be filed electronically:
      • FCC Form 314: this form is used when the license and assets of a station is to be assigned to another individual or entity [Asset Sale]
      • FCC Form 315: this form is to be used when the control of the licensee of a station is to be transferred to another individual(s), entity, or entities by sale or transfer of voting stock or other voting ownership interests. [Stock Sale]
      • FCC Form 316: this form is to be used for changes that constitute a transfer of control or assignment of license which are primarily changes in the form of the licensee or an adjustment of percentages among shareholders. Examples include assignment of the license to a subsidiary or the transfer of stock from one existing stockholder to another such that a stockholder gains or loses positive control. This form can also be used in situations where the change is involuntary, such as when a stockholder dies and the control or license of the station is automatically transferred to the deceased’s executor/trix. Similarly, an involuntary transfer occurs when the licensee declares bankruptcy and the control or license of the station is transferred either as a debtor in possession or to a trustee.
      • FCC Form 345: this form is to be used for transfers or assignments of control of FM or TV translators, low power TV stations booster and auxiliary stations, such as translator microwave relay stations.

    What if I want to buy the same frequency as someone else?: The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 requires the FCC, in situations involving mutually exclusive applications for commercial broadcast authorizations, to award the authorizations through a competitive bidding process. These auction rules went into effect on November 10, 1998. Applications for new facilities or major changes in existing facilities are generally limited to window filing periods. During such windows, applicants must file FCC Form 175. Subsequently, the Commission will establish dates for filing upfront payments and other auction related dates. Following the actual auction, the winning bidders must file complete applications (FCC Form 301, 345, etc.) which will then be subject to Petitions to Deny.

    Are there limits on how many radio stations I can own in a single market?: In an Arbitron (Nielsen) defined radio Metro market as reported by BIA/Kelsey with 45 or more full-power commercial and non-commercial radio stations, a single entity may not own more than 8 commercial stations (and not more than 5 in the same service - AM or FM); in markets with between 30 and 44 radio stations, a single entity may not own more than 7 commercial stations (and not more than 4 in the same service); in markets with between 15-29 radio stations, a single entity may not own more than 6 commercial stations (and not more than 4 in the same service); in markets with 14 or fewer stations, one entity may not own more than 5 commercial stations (and not more than 3 in the same service) and may not own more than 50 percent of the stations in the market. Regardless of market size (and in undefined markets), however, any licensee may own one AM-FM combination of stations. There is also no limitation on the number of noncommercial stations a noncommercial licensee may own in any market. In non-Metro markets, the FCC uses a modified contour overlap methodology to determine the number of stations in a market.

    Are there limits on how many TV stations I can own in a single market?: Combined ownership of two television stations is permitted in the same Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMA) as long as (i) eight or more separately-owned full-power stations will remain in the DMA after the purchase and (ii) neither of the stations to be jointly owned is among the top four-ranked stations in the DMA based on audience share. The rule permits ownership of stations in the same DMA if the stations’ Grade B contours do not overlap.

    What are the rules concerning owning radio and television stations in the same market?: The radio-television cross-ownership rule permits joint ownership of: (i) one or two television stations (depending upon TV duopoly rule restrictions) and up to six radio stations (any combination of AM or FM stations, depending on radio duopoly rule restrictions) if 20 independently owned and operated radio and TV stations will remain in the market after the acquisition (or one television station and seven radio stations, if ownership of two television stations would otherwise be permitted in the market); (ii) one or two television stations and up to four radio stations if 10 independently owned and operated radio and TV stations will remain in the market after the acquisition; or (iii) one or two television stations and one radio station regardless of the number of independently owned and operated radio and TV stations which will remain after the transaction.

    What kind of fees are required to own a broadcast station?:

    • Regulatory Fees: Every year, commercial broadcast licensees and permittees are required to pay regulatory fees to the Commission. The fee amount that must be paid by radio stations is dependent upon the population served and the station’s class. The fee amount due for television stations is dependent on market size. Regulatory fees must also be paid for construction permits, broadcast auxiliary stations, translator and booster stations. In very limited situations, a station licensee with documented negative cash flow can seek a financial hardship waiver with the Commission to avoid payment.
    • Filing Fees: Most applications filed with the Commission must be accompanied by a filing fee. Filing fees vary depending on the type of application being filed. Fee payments may be made in the form of a check, bank draft or money order payable to the FCC or by credit card. Applicants are required to submit their fee payment and FCC Form 159 (which supplies the payor’s Federal Registration Number (FRN) with each application or filing).

    Joint Sales Agreements, and Shared Services Agreements : A joint sales agreement (“JSA”) is an agreement between either two or more radio or television stations, whereby the stations agree to sell their advertising time in conjunction with each other. Pursuant to some of these agreements, one of the stations sells the advertising time for the stations and takes all the profit. In return, the station receiving all the profit must pay the other station a monthly fee. The Commission believes that joint sales agreements allow advertisers to reach a more diverse audience and reduce administrative expenses. The circumstances under which JSAs are permitted, however, are constrained by the antitrust laws enforced by the Department of Justice. In particular, JSAs must provide that an advertiser may buy advertising on one station without being forced to buy time on the other. In 2004, the FCC opened a formal rulemaking proceeding to consider whether TV JSAs should be treated as attributable interests (they would count towards the number of stations owned or controlled in a market), but the rulemaking is technically still open. Radio JSAs are considered to be attributable interests.

    A shared services agreement (SSA) is an agreement between two or more stations, where one station agrees to provide back-office support for another station in the same market. SSAs generally occur within larger agreements that often contain JSAs and equipment leases. Under the FCC’s multiple ownership rules, if the station providing the support provides support for less than 15 percent of the programming hours of the station being supported, the contractual arrangement is “not attributable.” Thus, these services can be provided in circumstances where the supported station could not be owned by the station that is providing the services. However, the FCC has considered defining certain SSAs as attributable interests.

    What do I need to file with the FCC?:

    1. Annual EEO Public File Report: (See “Public Inspection File”)
    2. Children’s Programming Report: (See “Children’s Programming”)
    3. Filing of Contracts:
      Each licensee or permittee of an AM, FM or TV station (either commercial or non-commercial) must file, with the Secretary of the FCC in Washington, D.C., copies of particular contracts, along with any changes (oral contracts) within 30 days of their execution. (See “Public Inspection File” for types of contracts to be filed with the Commission).
    4. Ownership Report (See “Public Inspection File”)
    5. Quarterly Issues/Programs List: (See “Public Inspection File”)
    6. Annual DTV Ancillary/Supplemental Service Report:
      A permittee operating pursuant to digital special temporary authority or a licensee of a (1) digital commercial or noncommercial educational full power television broadcast station; (2) digital low power television broadcast station: (3) digital translator television broadcast station; or (4) digital Class A television broadcast station (referred to herein collectively as “DTV licensee or permittee”) is required to file FCC 317 each year by December 1st. The form must state whether the station provided ancillary or supplementary services at any time during the twelve month period ending on the preceding September 30th. Permittees and licensees must pay the FCC 5 percent of the revenues received for any ancillary and supplementary services provided during the previous twelve month period.
    7. Violation of Law Report:
      On the same date that the licensee or permittee files its annual employment report, each licensee or permittee must report to the FCC any final adjudications by courts or agencies in non-FCC proceedings involving: (1) felonies; (2) mass media-related violations of anti-trust and other laws that deal with unfair competition; (3) fraudulent misrepresentations to government units, and (4) any adjudications involving employment discrimination. The filing of this report applies to the reporting party (licensee/permittee) and its principals (officers, directors, attributable stockholders, parent or affiliated companies). Corporations and partnerships are responsible for conducting inquiries sufficient to determine whether there have been any reportable adjudications. These reports should be filed with the Secretary of the FCC in Washington, D.C.

    Do I need to do anything if my station is silent?: All commercial AM and FM stations are required to operate not less than two-thirds of the total hours they are authorized to operate between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and two-thirds of the total hours they are authorized to operate between 6 p.m. and midnight each day of the week except Sunday. All commercial TV stations, during the first 36 months of operation, are required to operate at least 2 hours daily in any 5 broadcast days per calendar week and not less than a total of 12 hours per week during the first 18 months, 20 hours per week during the 19th-24th months, 20 hours during the 25th-30th month, 24 hours during the 31st-36th month. After 36 months of operation, the station must operate at least 2 hours in each day of the week and not less than a total of 28 hours per calendar week. Noncommercial educational AM and TV stations do not have any minimum operating requirements. Noncommercial FM stations are required to operate at least 36 hours per week, consisting of at least 5 hours of operation per day on at least 6 days of the week. However noncommercial FM stations are not required to operate on Saturday or Sunday or to observe the minimum operating requirements during those days designated on the official school calendar as vacation or recess periods. Class A TV stations must operate not less than 18 hours in each day of the week.

    Any station that does not adhere to the above guidelines because of events beyond the control of the licensee may limit or discontinue operation for up to 30 days by giving notification to the FCC. If full operation cannot be restored within 30 days, an informal written request must be submitted to the FCC. However, the license of any broadcasting station that fails to transmit broadcasting signals for any consecutive 12-month period, including stations with permission from the FCC, will automatically expire at the end of that 12-month period.

    What requirements are there regarding my antennas?: The FCC requires antenna structure owners to register their antenna structures (colloquially, their “towers”) with the Commission. The registration requirement generally applies to structures more than 60.96 meters (200 feet) above ground or located near an airport. Towers built after June 30, 1996, which require registration, must be registered prior to construction.

    Building a new tower requires (1) approval from the state or local governing authority for the proposed site; (2) compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); (3) compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA); and may require (4) notification to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); and (6) Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) with the FCC. Upon registration, and based on the recommendation of the Federal Aviation Administration, the FCC will require the structure to be painted and lighted as necessary to make it conspicuous to aircraft.

    Any changes in technical data of the structure must be filed on a modification application.

    Electronic Filing:
    Antenna structure registration applications must be filed electronically using FCC Form 854. There is no registration fee, nor will owners be required to renew their registration. Structure owners must notify the FCC, however, of any change in structure height, ownership, the owner’s address, or upon dismantling the tower. After registering an antenna structure with the Commission, the tower owner will receive an FCC Form 854-R containing a unique 7-digit registration number, which identifies the tower. Tower owners are reminded that they must post the registration number for their structures in a conspicuous place on or adjacent to the base of the tower structure, so that the number is readily visible to the public.