The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) has announced that its new online public file rules, adopted in January of this year, will go into effect on June 24, 2016.
Beginning on June 24, 2016, the following entities must place all new public file material into the online public file database:
- Commercial Radio Stations located in the top 50 Nielsen Audio radio markets with 5 or more full-time employees;
- DBS providers;
- Cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers; and
- SDARS licensees.
By December 24, 2016, these same entities must have uploaded all existing public file material to the online public file database, except that existing political file material may be excluded. Simultaneously with the expansion of the online public file obligations to cover new services, the FCC is rolling out a new public file database with enhanced capabilities. The new database will go live on June 24, 2016. The Commission will transition all existing public file material (for television stations) into this new database by that date. The expanded database will have several features requested by broadcasters, including the ability to:
- Connect to third-party web hosting services (i.e., Dropbox, Box);
- Upload a document into multiple folders;
- Move a document between folders while preserving the original upload date; and
- Update the Closed Captioning contact information.
Beginning May 12, 2016, the new public file database is available for users to test, and can be found here: https://publicfiles-demo.fcc.gov/admin/. Note that this database is only available for testing at this time. Any material uploaded here prior to June 24, 2016 will be deleted. Television broadcasters should continue uploading material to the existing public file database until June 24. The FCC will also host a webinar to explain the features of the public file database at a date to be announced.
The FCC will entertain waiver requests from entities that believe that transitioning to the online public file will impose an undue burden. Parties requesting a waiver must provide information documenting the economic hardship that they will incur, their technical inability to comply, or other reasons justifying a waiver. The Commission indicated that it will give “careful consideration” to requests by commercial radio stations with between five and ten full-time employees and that it will be “favorably inclined” to grant requests from very small radio stations with fewer than five full-time employees that require additional time.