In this week’s issue… End of shutdown gets regulators back in action, at least for now – Helicopter lifts new TV antenna – NY’s NASH names new morning show – Silent AM returns – More turmoil at Canada’s JAZZ.FM
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*For broadcasters, the partial government shutdown whose end was announced Friday was a little shorter than for the rest of the country. The FCC’s funding lasted into January, running out January 3 and leaving (most of) the Commission out of business for just under a month before things start opening up again today.
If you heard our Top of the Tower podcast last week with veteran DC attorney Melodie Virtue, you heard us discuss many of the shutdown’s effects on broadcasters: signal upgrades and changes were put on hold, the sales landscape slowed down dramatically as deals were unable to be filed, and while some Commission systems remained up and running (the CDBS database system, for instance, was available during the shutdown, unlike during previous shutdowns), there was no guarantee that a power glitch or other system issue wouldn’t take them down without warning.
Other systems, somewhat inexplicably, went away immediately when the shutdown hit. Broadcasters who didn’t get in to the online public file system right at the start of January to file their quarterly issues lists found that the URL redirected them to an official shutdown notice (and, for a time, some found an outdated link that went to an earlier test version of the public file site, though the Commission took down that test site once broadcasters alerted them to the issue.)
We’ll be watching the Commission today to see how it resolves some issues at the end of the shutdown. In theory, any filings that were due during the shutdown – like, say, those quarterly issues lists that were supposed to have been in January 10 – will be due two business days after the FCC reopens. Given the load that a month’s worth of filing will put on the Commission’s systems, will any of those deadlines get stretched?
And of course we’ll also be watching closely as all that pent-up activity gets filed in the next few days – station sales we might not have known about, for instance, without a transfer filing in CDBS. With the threat of another shutdown looming in just a few weeks, will broadcasters be moving more expediently to get things filed right away? And how fast can the beleaguered FCC staff move on processing a backlog? We’ll be watching.