It has been almost a year since the FCC adopted rules for an online public inspection file for television stations. This week, the Commission released a Public Notice requesting comments on how the rules are performing – specifically focusing on the online political file. While the Commission’s rules currently require only that the affiliates of the top four networks, in the Top 50 markets, maintain their political files online, the Commission plans to expand that requirement to all television stations in July 2014. But first, it is asking for comments as to how the rules are working so far, whether changes are needed, and perhaps even whether additional information should be required for inclusion in the online political files of TV stations. Comments are also sought on a Petition for Reconsideration filed by various television broadcasters suggesting a different way of complying with the online political file requirements.
Specific questions on which comments are requested include the following:
- Have stations encountered particular obstacles in connection with posting documents to the political file?
- Has online posting become easier over time as station personnel have become more familiar with the process?
- Are there other steps the FCC could take to make the database more user-friendly?
- Are smaller stations prepared to use the online file for their political files starting next year? If not, what needs to be done to help them prepare?
The FCC also asks the public, including political candidates and their representatives, to comment on whether they found it easy to access information in the file, whether improvements could be made, and whether the ability to view the file online has been beneficial. What have interested groups said about the online political file since it was adopted?