On Aug. 2, 2012, the FCC’s new online public file regulations for all television and Class A TV stations went into effect. NAB asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay as well as permanent relief from the new rules, but its petition for a stay was denied on July 27, less than a week before the Aug. 2 effective date of the new rules.
The FCC’s cloud-based facility was supposed to be fully operational prior to the Aug. 2 effective date. The system was to undergo further “screensharing” demonstrations July 30-31. A previous demonstration, on July 17, was successful. Once the FCC’s database is fully operational, licensees will have to start uploading all newly created documents required to be placed in the public file. Exceptions to this requirement are letters and e-mails from the public and, in some but not all cases, political file materials. Licensees will have six months in which to upload required pre-existing public file documents to the online site.
Pre-Aug. 2 political file materials are exempt from the online file requirement. With respect to post-Aug. 2 political materials, there will be a staggered implementation system as follows: Stations affiliated with one of the top-four commercial networks and located in a top-50 market must start uploading post-Aug. 2 political documents as soon as the FCC’s site can receive them. All other TV stations — i.e., top-50 stations not affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC and all non-top 50 market stations — have until July 1, 2014, to begin uploading their political files.
Thus, as of this writing, it appears that the FCC’s new database will be operational and ready to receive public file materials as early as the Aug. 2 effective date of the new rules.
New ASR rules in effect
In June, the FCC’s revised antenna structure registration (ASR) rules went into effect. This is important for anyone planning to build any new tower that would have to be registered. With some exceptions — e.g, towers subject to the jurisdiction of another federal agency’s environmental review process — registrants now need to do the following to assure their registrations comply with FCC environmental standards:
- File a partially-completed Form 854 in the FCC’s ASR system. This form will contain information previously required on Form 854, plus tower lighting information and specification of the date on which the registrant wants the FCC to post the application on the agency’s website for comments.
- Publish a notice of the filing of the application in a local newspaper or by other means. A public comment period will then be open for 30 days.
- If the FCC staff concludes that no additional environmental review is required, the applicant will amend its application to reflect (a) if not previously provided, the FAA’s study number and issue date, (b) the date of the local public notice and (c) a certification that the proposed construction will have no significant environmental impact.
- If, after considering the Form 854 and any public comments, the FCC decides that more review is warranted, it will require the submission of an Environmental Assessment (see 47 CFR §§ 1.1308 & 1.1311), which will take additional time for the staff to evaluate before the registration can be approved.
- On or before Oct. 1, 2012, noncommercial TV and Class A stations in Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Oregon, the Virgin Islands, Washington and the Pacific islands must file their biennial ownership reports.
- On or before Oct. 1, 2012, television stations, Class A TV, LPTV stations and TV translators in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands must file their license renewal applications.
- On Oct. 1, 2012, TV and Class A TV stations in Alabama and Georgia must begin their pre-filing renewal announcements in anticipation of an Dec. 3, 2012, renewal application filing date.
- On Oct. 1, 2012, television and Class A TV stations in the following locations must post their 2012 EEO reports on the FCC’s website (see story above): Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Oregon, the Virgin Islands, Washington and the Pacific islands.
—Harry C. Martin is a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, PLC.
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