FCC vacates 2007 order on broadcast public filings, adopts notice proposing rulemaking on online public files

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Oct. 27 adopted an Order on Reconsideration vacating a 2007 Report and Order on how television broadcasters were required to inform the public of how they serve their communities.

The commission also adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing a new approach requiring broadcasters to submit documents to an online public file hosted by the FCC.

The vacated 2007 R&O did away with rules requiring stations to maintain a paper public inspection file in favor of making the material available on station websites. According to the commission, legal challenges blocked the 2007 R&O from going into effect.

In the Further Notice, the commission is seeking comment on proposals aimed at reducing the burden placed on the broadcast industry. The agency wants comments on proposals to:

  • Streamline the information broadcasters must provide to the commission to information already filed with the agency
  • Exempt letters and emails from the public as well as other information from online posting
  • Post sponsorship information currently only made available on air
  • Post shared services agreements online.

The FNPRM seeks comment on proposals that would reduce burdens on the broadcast industry. The Further Notice proposes to streamline the information broadcasters will need to provide by requiring the Commission to import information already filed with the FCC, and exempts certain items from being posted online such as letters and emails from the public. It further seeks comment on posting sponsorship identification information, now disclosed only on-air, and shared services agreements online as part of the public inspection file hosted by the Commission.

The FCC's action today is consistent with the government-wide effort to increase transparency, and the FCC's broader efforts to modernize data and move its processes from paper to digital. The Commission seeks comment on any other revisions or additions to its rules that would make the information about broadcast service more accessible to the public, improving the dialogue between broadcast stations and the communities they serve while reducing compliance burdens on broadcasters.

In a statement released with the Further Notice, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said making the public inspection file of broadcasters available online is consistent with the pledge he made upon taking on the post to use technology and new media to improve how the agency runs.

"Making this information easily accessible will let the public see the large number of broadcasters that are doing a strong job of meeting their public interest obligations, and also those that are not," said Genachowski.