By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP
On May 13, the FCC issued a Public Notice that the obligation will begin on June 24 to start uploading documents to the online public file for radio stations in the Top 50 markets. For Top 50 market commercial radio stations that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time employees, the June 24 date will mark the start of their obligation to upload materials to the online public file. New public file documents (including political file documents) created on or after that date are to be placed in the online public file. These stations will have 6 months from the effective date (until December 24, 2016) to upload to the online public file existing documents that are already in their paper public file. This would include documents like EEO Public Inspection File Reports and Quarterly Issues Programs Lists. Pre-effective date political file documents need not be uploaded. Letters from the public also do not need to be uploaded (see our article here about the FCC’s proposal to entirely do away with the requirement that letters be kept). We wrote more extensively about the obligations for the radio online public inspection file here.
TV, too, needs to pay attention to this notice. The Public Notice announces that the online public file will be moving to a new database. Effective on June 24, TV licensees will need to use this new database too – what the FCC calls the “OPIF” (for expanded online public inspection file) as opposed to the old “BPIF” (“broadcast public inspection file”). The FCC suggests that the new OPIF database will allow for easier uploads – including the ability to upload a single document into multiple stations’ files at the same time. It will also have a more user-friendly interface, and will work better with other online systems like Dropbox and Box. This database moves these files off the FCC server and onto a cloud-based storage system. Stations can already try out the new system here.
The FCC is planning a webinar on the online public file on a date to be announced in the near future.
The FCC also reminded TV stations to make sure that Joint Sales Agreements are uploaded into their public file by both the broker and the licensee. A recent GAO study suggested that many TV stations had failed to upload Joint Sales Agreements as required by the rules. The FCC warning indicates that the failure to upload these documents could lead to fines, and notes that stations need to report any late filings on their next license renewal application.
The effective date also applies to cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers, DBS providers, as well as SDARS licensees (i.e. Sirius XM).
With the upcoming election, these files will no doubt be subject to scrutiny. So be ready to comply with this new obligation by next month’s effective date.
The MAB is planning a Webex meeting with David Oxenford on this topic. Details to be announced soon.