FCC Nixes Contract Paper Rule

WASHINGTON--Another paper filing requirement bites the dust.

Another piece of the FCC’s ongoing media modernization efforts was passed through at the October Open Meeting of the Federal Communications Commission when commissioners voted to eliminate the nearly-80-year-old rule that required broadcasters to file paper copies of station contracts and certain other documents with the commission.

Other documents include contracts such as those relating to network affiliations, personnel agreements, as well as local marketing agreements and joint sales agreements.

Broadcasters will now have the option to either upload these documents directly to their online public inspection file or maintain a list of those documents in their online file that members of the public can request.

According to the commission, this move will reduce burdens on broadcasters while preserving transparency and ease of access to station documents for both the FCC and the public.

[Read: FCC Eliminates Paper Copy Rules]

The reasoning was simple, said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “[In] 1939: The FCC requires broadcasters to file paper copies of certain contracts with the commission. [In] 2018: There’s this thing called the internet,” he said. “Broadcasters now have the option of either posting these documents online in their public inspection file or maintaining an up-to-date list in their online file and providing copies to any requesting party within seven days.

“Therefore anyone who cares to access these documents (and virtually nobody does) can easily do so,” he said. “This regulation is no longer necessary — in fact, it’s burdensome — so we’re repealing it.”

The National Association of Broadcasters agreed, saying that the elimination of the paper filing requirement is a common-sense update.

“NAB appreciates the commission’s continued efforts to modernize outdated regulatory burdens on local TV and radio stations,” said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton.

The move is part of the commission’s ongoing media revitalization initiative, which included actions such as eliminating the requirement that certain media groups maintain paper copies of the FCC’s regulations and the transition to an online public inspection file for most broadcasters.

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.