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Public file is still alive as FCC considers online docs

At yesterday’s open meeting the FCC released a new proposal to “modernize” public inspection files at television broadcast stations [PDF]. The biggest change proposed is to have the FCC host the files on its own website rather than have each broadcaster use its own website. As expected, the Commission also vacated a 2007 order that mandated online public files, but never went into effect.

The FCC is also proposing to reduce redundancy by not requiring broadcasters to resubmit items to their online public files that already have been submitted to the Commission. For instance, stations are required to keep a copy of their biannual ownership reports in their public files, which is something also submitted to the FCC. Other documents, like quarterly Issues and Programming lists are only kept in the public file.

The Commission is also seeking comment on suggestions to require postings on sponsorship identification information, now disclosed only on-air, and shared services agreements.

The FCC also indicated that it is not yet ready to take up revisions to public file requirements for radio. Instead the Commission is going to wait to see how changes work for TV, while also acknowledging that radio is a different case, due at least in part to the fact that radio stations are typically smaller organizations. I do think that it’s highly unlikely that public file requirements for radio will go away.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the public interest organization the Media Access Project said of the proposal,

For twenty-five years, it has been FCC policy to place primary reliance on listeners to identify broadcasters who do not deserve license renewal. The absence of useful information about broadcasters’ performance has made the license renewal process a meaningless charade.

Today’s action makes useful information available, and makes it much more accessible to the public.

The Broadcast Law Blog has a very thorough rundown of the many aspects of the FCC’s proposal.

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