FCC Accepting CALM Waivers Up to Dec. 13 Deadline

WASHINGTON – Operations seeking a hardship waiver of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act rules need to file applications by tomorrow—also the deadline for implementation. The Federal Communications Commission said it will accept “streamlined financial hardship waiver requests filed on or before Dec. 13, 2012.”

CALM rules require broadcasters and cable operators to control audio loudness variances according to the Advanced Television Systems Committee Recommended Practice, A/85, which establishes a target loudness value of -24 dB, ±2 dB. Various types of equipment and software have been introduced for implementing CALM, but some operations are still having trouble making the deadline. At least 100 waiver requests were on file at the FCC as of Tuesday evening.

The CALM Act has two waiver provisions—one for financial hardship, and the other at the discretion of the FCC for “good cause.” Financial hardship can be demonstrated as a result of a four-part test that includes evidence such as financial statements, a cost estimate of the necessary equipment, a detailed statement explaining why the situation warrants postponing compliance, and an estimate of how long it will take to comply.

Small TV stations and cable operators can opt for a streamlined process whereby they certify the size of their operation and the necessary equipment. TV stations in markets 150-210 or with annual revenues of no more than $14 million, and cable operations with fewer than 15,000 subscribers as of Dec. 31, 2011, are eligible. These streamlined waiver requests are considered “granted upon submission” unless the FCC’s Media Bureau notifies the applicants otherwise.

At least two waivers expressly were granted. WPFO-TV, the Fox affiliate in Portland, Maine, owned by Corporate Media Consultants Group, and the South Georgia Governmental Services Authority municipal cable system, were both temporarily excused from the CALM deadline.

SGGSA now has until Jan. 31, 2013 to comply. The FCC rejected its claim that it qualified for a streamlined waiver because it serves 18,000 subscribers. The municipality’s financial hardship plea included an equipment estimate of $98,500, which was found later to be “based on a misunderstanding of what equipment was necessary to comply,” the commission said. SGGSA subsequently agreed that it could comply by the new deadline.

WPFO has until March 14, 2013 to comply with CALM rules. The station sought a temporary waiver of the deadline because it’s moving the studio.

“WPFO explained that it plans to upgrade its equipment after it accomplishes its move, and that such upgrade includes installation of the equipment that will allow it to comply with the CALM Act rules,” the FCC Order states. “…WPFO expects to sign a lease on Dec. 14, 2012, and that it will need three months from this date to build out the space.”

The initial waiver application deadline was two months ago, but they kept coming in the FCC said.

“We received several streamlined financial hardship waiver requests after the filing deadline,” the Order extending the deadline states. “On our own motion, we will grant streamlined financial hardship waiver applicants a waiver of the filing deadline and will accept as timely-filed those streamlined financial hardship waiver requests filed on or before the Dec.13, 2012 effective date. We find this is in the public interest, and consistent with Congress’ intent to afford small entities more time to comply with the CALM Act rules.”

~ Deborah D. McAdams