In the last day or two, some broadcast trade press reports may have given the impression that the FCC’s new online public file rules for radio may now be “effective,” suggesting that Top 50 market stations with 5 or more full-time employees need to start uploading their new political documents into the file (the first documents that will need to go into these files – see our article here about the filing requirements). That impression is incorrect. While the FCC’s order was published in the Federal Register earlier this week, that publication has little practical effect, as the information collection aspects of the rule don’t go into effect until the Office of Management and Budget approves them following a Paperwork Reduction Act review. Comments on the OMB review can be filed with the OMB through March 28.
These information collection requirements are basically anything that needs a station to spend time and process paper – the guts of the new rule for taking your paper files and putting them online. The Notice itself states plainly that the “information collections” triggered by the new rules still must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget, a process that is likely to take at least two more months. The FCC has not yet opened its new public file database for document uploading, nor has it scheduled the training sessions it plans to offer in advance of the actual compliance deadline. So everyone who panicked when they saw the reports yesterday that the rule was effective can relax, as there is still time to adjust to the new reality and prepare for the online public file.