Broadcasting Hours of Operation Laws

Written by Attorney Joe Irby

How many hours must I operate my broadcast station?

Hours of Operation

In many areas and in many circumstances, running a broadcast station 24 hours a day, seven days a week just doesn’t make sense. For example, a broadcast station might be located in a sparsely populated area and statistically, the audience drops off substantially during certain hours of the day. Another reason might be because the broadcast station has a high transmitter output which means a high power bill. If the cost/benefit ratio does not play into the station’s favor, a broadcast station may wish to power down or power off completely during certain hours for a number of reasons.

All commercial broadcast stations are required to operate a minimum number of hours as set out in 47 CFR 1740. This means that, depending on the classification of the broadcast station, they must transmit a signal, or be “on the air” for a certain number of hours per week. Noncommercial broadcast stations are not required to adhere to a particular broadcast schedule, and they have no minimum hours of operation. The number of hours a noncommercial station does broadcast during its license period will, however, be taken into account when the FCC decides whether or not to renew their license.

Commercial AM and FM Stations – Hours of Operation

The requirement of operation hours for commercial AM and FM stations is laid out in 47 CFR 73.1740(a)(1).

Stations must be broadcasting a total of no less than 2/3 the total number of hours they are authorized to broadcast between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Stations must broadcast a total of no less than 2/3 the total number of hours they are authorized to broadcast between 6 p.m. and Midnight.

Stations do not need to broadcast any signal between Midnight and 6 a.m.

Commercial Television Stations – Hours of Operation

The requirement of operation hours for commercial television stations is laid out in 47 CFR 73.1740(a)(2).

During the first 36 months of operation, television stations must operate not less than:

  • 12 hours per week during the first 18 months.
  • 16 hours per week during months 19 through 24.
  • 20 hours per week during months 25 through 30.
  • 24 hours per week during months 31 through 36.

After the first 36 months of operation, television stations must operate no less than 2 hours in each day of the week and not less than a total of 28 hour per calendar week.

Transmissions of test patterns, slides, or still pictures accompanied by unrelated audio is not counted as operating for purposes of this rule.

If, for some reason, a television station is unable to broadcast for a period of time, the station may discontinue operation for a period of not more than 30 days and notify the FCC within 10 days from the beginning of the limited or discontinued operation. The station does not need FCC permission to do this, they just must notify the FCC. The station must, however, keep the transmitter antenna and tower lit.

If 30 days is not enough time to resolve the problem that caused the limited or discontinued operation, the station must send the FCC notice and request authorization to remain in limited broadcast mode no later than the 30th day of the initial period.

Class A TV stations must operate no less than 18 hours in each day of the week.

Whatever the reason for reducing the amount of hours the station broadcasts, it is very important to follow these guidelines so as to not put the license (and capital investment) at risk.

This post is part of a series of posts on Radio Station & Broadcast Law: 47 CFR 73 – 74 & More