FCC Expands Online Public File Requirements

Current Public File Rules Still Apply For Now

At yesterday’s open meeting, the FCC voted unanimously to expand the requirements to keep public and political files online at an FCC-hosted website to include cable TV systems, DBS satellite operators, and broadcast and satellite radio stations, in addition to the broadcast TV stations that currently must post such files.

The new requirement should have minimal impact on JSI clients as systems with fewer than 1,000 subscribers will be exempt from complying with the new rule. For larger cable systems, the rules will be phased-in. For 2016, only cable systems with more than 5,000 subscribers will have to upload public files. Systems with 1,000-5,000 subscribers will have a two-year phase-in. The Commission did not address any phase-in period for DBS or satellite radio operators.

For radio stations, only those in the top 50 markets with five or more full-time employees will be required to upload their public files to the FCC this year. Other radio stations will have two years or until March 1, 2018, to comply with this requirement.

The FCC also approved several exemptions. First, if an entity already has materials on file with the FCC, it will not be required to upload them again to the FCC’s website. It also determined that the new rule will be forward looking, and will not apply to pre-existing political files. Finally, back-up copies are only required for political files.

Lastly, waivers will be available to those entities that have a demonstrated hardship in complying with this requirement and noncommercial educational (NCE) radio stations that do not want to make their donor lists public.

Remember that until a cable system is fully transitioned to the FCC’s online Public File, the existing requirements for video/cable TV providers to maintain a physical Public File at their offices still apply. Don’t forget – Public File documents must be available for inspection at any time during regular business hours for viewing upon request by members of the public or by FCC agents. If you have any questions about Public File rules, including what they must contain and for how long, you can contact Marty Kluh in our Maryland office at 301-459-7590.

For more information about this new online requirement, please contact John Kuykendall in JSI’s Maryland Office at 301-459-7590.

Source: JSI e-Lert