The online public inspection file for radio stations becomes a reality for most Top 50 market stations on June 24. Yesterday, I conducted a webinar for members of 19 state broadcast associations, discussing the process for the transition to the online public file. I also outlined obligations for maintaining the public file and the required contents of the file – what documents need to be included as well as the retention period for those documents. Slides from that presentation are available here.
Just as the presentation was wrapping up, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing its own workshop on the new online public file. That presentation on June 13 at 1 pm ET is geared to all of the media entities that are required (or will be required by June 24) to maintain an online public inspection file – radio, TV, satellite radio and TV, and cable operators. The presentation seems to be a “how to” demonstration of the workings of the new public file system. That system is different from the one that TV stations have been using for the last several years – being cloud-based and supposedly with more functionality than the current system. So users, old and new, should tune in to the FCC workshop to get a review of the workings of the new system. Online access to the seminar is available here. Also, stations can begin to experiment with the new system with a simulated file for practicing – available here.
We’ve written more about the online public file for radio (see for instance our articles here and here). It will take some broadcasters time to get used to the process of uploading documents to the file, but many broadcasters actually seem ready to convert to the online file early as it may make organization of the file, and providing the public access to the file, easier than with the current paper file. As set out in my webinar yesterday, the FCC permits stations to convert early by uploading all of the documents that are required into the public file, and providing notification in the file that the conversion is complete.
As the FCC hinted last week when it adopted its proposal to eliminate the requirement that commercial broadcasters maintain in a paper file copies of letters from the public about station operations, it may also allow broadcasters to limit public access to their studios and increase their security (see our article here). But the online public file also requires some cautions. It allows the FCC and other interested groups the ability to see whether your station has observed all of its legal obligations – from the comfort of their own home or anywhere else where an Internet connection is available (see our post here). For TV, this has led to the ability of some public interest groups to file complaints for stations allegedly failing to meet some of their political file obligations (see our post here). As the online file is about to be a reality for all broadcasters – you need to be prepared – so pay attention to all the information coming your way about how to meet your new obligations.