The FCC has announced that the obligation for television broadcast stations to post their public inspection files online will become effective August 2, 2012, absent a stay requested by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which has appealed the rule to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Absent a stay, the rule requires full power and Class A television stations to post any NEW public file documents online at an FCC-hosted website as of August 2nd. Those broadcasters will have six months or until February 2, 2013 to post PRE-EXISTING public file documents online.
The political public file, which is the subject of the NAB appeal, will be treated a bit differently. NEW political public file documents must be posted effective August 2 by only the top four network affiliated stations (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) in the top 50 markets. There is no requirement to post pre-existing political file documents online.
All other TV stations (i.e. non-network affiliated stations in the top 50 markets and ALL TV stations outside of the top 50 markets), do not have to post political public file documents online until July 1, 2014.
While it remains to be seen whether the NAB’s request for a stay of these requirements will be granted, the FCC plans to schedule user testing and educational webinars in the near future to ensure that users know how to upload documents to the FCC’s website intended for this purpose, and perhaps to ensure that the website can handle the anticipated traffic.
While TV broadcasters should begin preparing for this requirement, it would be wise to stay tuned for further developments.