The FCC yesterday issued an order granting 39 radio stations (almost all stations with very small staffs or those affected by recent hurricanes or otherwise non-operational) 60 days to comply with the requirement that all full-power radio stations complete the transition to the online public file by this past March 1. We wrote about this obligation for the March 1 transition to the online public file here and here. This decision highlights the requirement for stations to have complied with the requirement to transition to the online file by March 1.
We are still hearing reports that there are stations not on this waiver list that have not activated the public file. In a footnote in yesterday decision, the FCC notes that it orally denied an extension request filed a year ago, and that its staff had discussed concerns that other stations about meeting the deadline, noting that the FCC has “encouraged all of these stations to continue to work to complete the transition to the online file as expeditiously as possible.” Whether that suggests that the Commission might not strictly enforce the March 1 deadline is open to interpretation, but it is clear that, even if it has not reached that point already, at some point (likely soon) any station not in compliance with the requirements is looking at potential FCC penalties. Note that the license renewal cycle for radio stations begins next year. That 3-year cycle in which all radio licensees will file their renewal applications will present the FCC with the opportunity to monitor compliance with the public file rules, and to impose penalties on those who have not complied. So don’t get caught being noncompliant!