In three proposed fines issued in the last few weeks, the FCC proposed $10,000 fines for the failure of stations to have all of their required Quarterly Issues Programs Lists in their public files. In one case, the deficiency was discovered by an FCC inspector, filing random reports missing from 2007-2009. In two others (here involving a noncommercial station and here), the missing reports were reported by the stations in their renewal applications, and the missing reports also just covered parts of the renewal cycle. All three cases resulted in the $10,000 fine. What began as a $3000 fine in the last renewal cycle has escalated over the last 8 years to become the violation of the broadcast rules that seemingly carries the biggest fine – even though the public file is rarely if ever visited by the public. As we’ve written before, it would seem to us that there are plenty of more serious issues that should demand closer attention by the FCC (and bigger fines), yet the public file seems to be the one that has attracted the Commission’s attention most often, and with the biggest fines. Obviously, with the attention over online public files that will only intensify with the expected FCC decision on that issue this Friday, this issue does not seem to be going away anytime soon.
For more information about the required contents of the Public File, see our advisory here. For our last advisory on the Quarterly Issues Programs lists which stations should have placed in their public file on or before April 10, see our advisory here.
Update – 4/24/12, 4:00 PM – Two more $10,000 fines for missing Quarterly Issues Programs lists were issued today, both for violations voluntarily revealed at license renewal time, reinforcing the "new normal." See the FCC decisions here and here.