Radio Stations: The New Expanded Online Public File Rule Is Effective June 24th
June 14, 2016
The FCC new online public files rules for radio, satellite and cable become effective June 24th, 2016.
Initially, only commercial radio stations in the top-50 Nielsen markets with five or more full-time employees will be required to move their public file online. Here's a link to the top 50 list. However, they need only begin uploading new public file documents to the FCC's online database by that date. Stations will have a six months grace period for existing public file materials. That period ends, and the balance of the files must be uploaded by December 24th, 2016.
All other radio stations, including all non-commercial educational stations and all stations that are either outside the top-50 markets or have fewer than five full-time employees, have a two-year grace period, and must comply by March 1st, 2018.
As it did when it implemented the television online public file, the FCC eased the burden on radio broadcasters with three exceptions:
- The FCC will automatically transfer to the online file applications, reports and other materials already filed in one of its electronic databases, as well as documents it has itself generated, such as licenses and other authorizations.
- If the broadcaster prefers, existing political file materials may continue to be retained in a local physical file, or a local accessible electronic file for the remainder of their two-year retention period, unless the licensee voluntarily elects to upload them, and
- Both existing and new letters and e-mails from the public are not to be uploaded to the online file, but must also be kept locally for two years. (Note that the Commission has adopted a proposed rulemaking that will eliminate requirement to keep such letters and emails in the public file. See link here)
The Commission has developed a new online public inspection file service ("OPIF") to be used by radio. Also on June 24th, 2016, television stations will be required to move to the FCC's OPIF and discontinue use of the current online broadcast public inspection file ("BPIF") that has been in place since 2012. By midnight on June 24th, 2016, the FCC intends to move all documents in BPIF to OPIF.
The FCC will conduct a live Webinar to demonstrate the new OPIF at a date to be announced. In the meantime, OPIF can be accessed in demonstration mode at https://publicfiles-demo.fcc.gov/admin/ for stations and at https://publicfiles-demo.fcc.gov/ for members of the public.
This column is provided for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.