The Public and Broadcasting is a document first written by the FCC in the 1970s to tell the public about how the FCC regulates broadcast stations, and to tell the public how they can get involved in the regulatory process. Broadcasters must maintain a copy of the manual in their public file, and make it available to members of the public who request it. For years, the manual was grossly out of date, finally being updated a few years ago. Today, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing that they have once again updated The Public and Broadcasting, and that all stations need to place the new version in their public file. The new version, with a new subtitle "How to Get the Most Service from Your Local Station" can be found here. Stations should print that document, and place it in their public file.
The manual is updated, and sets out most of the programming and other operational rules that would be of interest to the public. The manual seems to be objective – pointing out that most programming decisions are left to the broadcast licensee to avoid violating the Freedom of Speech rights of the broadcaster.
The Commission, at the same time, announced that it was setting up contact representatives within the FCC to deal with questions from the public about how to deal with their local broadcasters – and how to get involved in the FCC’s processes of regulating broadcasters. Toll free numbers and email addresses of one contact representative to deal with radio matters, and another for TV, have been established. Setting up these contacts seem to be part of the FCC’s suspicion, reflected in their localism proceeding and in connection with many other recent FCC actions, that broadcasters are not adequately serving the public and that there is significant interest on the public’s part to become active in the activities of broadcasters and their regulation by the Commission. This suspicion also seems to be underlying the proposals for community advisory boards and manned main studios in a station’s city of license, as reflected in the issues raised in the localism proceeding, where comments are due on Monday, April 28.
As the Commission is urging that the public monitor broadcasters and their adherence to the FCC’s rules, broadcasters should start their compliance programs by updating the version of The Public and Broadcasting that is in their public file.