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FCC to start over for station online disclosures

If you don't get it right the first time, try again. That's what the FCC will do when it discards the 2007 Enhanced Disclosure decision that requires broadcasters to file more detailed programming reports online and basically starts over.

The effort was part of former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's plan to modify the FCC's newspaper-broadcast crossownership rules. The plan also included Form 355, which called for more detailed information on news, public affairs and the amount of independently produced programming that stations air. This required a list of "all local news program segments dealing with community issues."

Broadcasters rebelled — claiming too much paperwork — and took the FCC to court. The court sent the case back to the FCC, where it has been ever since. Now the FCC will start over, killing the provisions of the 2007 ruling.

The NAB has reiterated the same complaints it raised in 2007 about replacing its quarterly issues/programs list with reporting "certain programming with particular content" and the potential compliance burdens of more detailed reporting. The organization said it thought the FCC should have issued a Notice of Inquiry rather than a further rulemaking proposal.

The Public Interest Public Airwaves Coalition (PIPAC) has asked the commission to create a standardized form that is readable by a machine. It would also become part of a searchable database administered by the FCC, but with links from broadcasters' websites as well as to the FCC's ownership data.

PIPAC wants broadcasters to be required to provide the info for two composite weeks (the FCC would randomly select different days from different weeks) per quarter. That info would be on "core local programming," which PIPAC defined as "Local News; Local Civic/Governmental Affairs; Local Electoral Affairs; and Closed Captioning/Emergency Accessibility Complaints."

In addition, the group wants broadcasters to have to report all local electoral coverage in the run-up to elections, and all political files be posted online as well.