Wasting little time after an August Public Notice, the FCC issued an NPRM today proposing to require broadcast radio stations, satellite radio operators, and cable and DBS operators to post their public inspection files to the FCC’s online database.
Today the online public file requirements apply only to broadcast television stations, however, the FCC “now believe[s] it is appropriate to commence the process of expanding the online file to other media entities in order to extend the benefits of improved public access to public inspection files and, ultimately, reduce the burden on these other entities of maintaining these files.” The Commission initially declined to require radio stations and MVPDs to maintain an online public file, citing an insufficient record and the need for phased initial implementation of the online public file process.
The Public Notice and NPRM come in response to a Petition for Rulemaking filed by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, and the Sunlight Foundation to expand the online public file requirement “to cable and satellite systems.”
Critically, the NPRM asks whether to allow for phased-in compliance deadlines for broadcast radio stations. Commercial broadcast radio stations with five or more full-time employees in the top 50 Nielsen radio markets would have to comply with online public file obligations “at the same time” as satellite radio, cable, and DBS operators, while the remainder of stations would have an additional two years to comply.
For political file materials, the NPRM proposes that material added to the file before the effective date of the rules can be kept at the station’s public file and need not be posted online.
Comments and replies on the NPRM are due 30 and 60 days, respectively, after publication in the Federal Register.