The Federal government shutdown that we speculated about last week has now come to pass, and the clearest evidence is that, when you go to the FCC website, you are greeted by a special message essentially saying that the website is not available until after the shutdown ends. So, as we speculated last week, broadcast (and most other) applicants can’t even begin to prepare applications for filing when the government reopens, as the Commission’s CDBS database (as well as there other systems for filing electronic applications) is not available. Nor can you even access information about pending applications, pleadings that have been filed, or any of the other detailed information that is available on the FCC’s usually informative website. You’ll even note that links to FCC actions contained in many of the posts on this blog will not work, as the documents to which they link are resident on the FCC website. Similar notices are on most other government agency sites like, for instance, the Copyright Office site.
What is a broadcaster to do when they have an application or other deadline that falls during shutdown period? Stations sales will no doubt be closed, stations will be constructed with license applications due to be filed, there are license renewals that were due yesterday for radio stations in the Pacific northwest, Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific territories, and other pleadings and filings that are either now due, or will become due if the shutdown persists. One of the few documents that is available on the FCC’s site is a Public Notice on the Procedure for Filing in the Event of a Lapse in Funding, which provides a minimal amount of information about what is next. Beyond saying that the FCC is essentially closed, the notice does say that filings due during the shutdown would be due the day after the FCC returns to normal operations. The notice gives the example that, if funding is restored on a Monday, the FCC would return to normal operations on Tuesday, and filings due during the interim would be due on Wednesday. The Notice also states that, if there are issues restarting the electronic filing databases after the government reopens, further public notices will be issued, which presumably could further extend filing deadlines.