The FCC has decided that the public files of every TV and Class A TV station, whether commercial or noncommercial, will be hosted on a cloud-based system that the Commission promises to develop and manage. Uploading of public file materials is likely to be required this year.
The vast majority of existing public files for TV stations will have to be uploaded to the FCC-managed website. Each TV licensee will be responsible for posting the following materials:
- Political advertising materials (more on that below);
- Annual EEO public file reports;
- LMAs and JSAs;
- Must-carry or retransmission consent elections;
- Children's TV commercial limits records;
- Citizen agreements;
- Renewal local notice announcements;
- Eligibility documentation for Class A stations;
- Materials related to FCC investigations; and
- Donor lists for specific programs (for noncommercial stations only).
Scope and exceptions
These documents must be uploaded on more than a “going forward” basis. Stations will be required, for instance, to upload all quarterly issues/programs lists going back to their last renewals. Anything in a station's public file as of the effective date of the new rules, with the exceptions mentioned below, will have to be included in the online version. However, the following are exceptions:
- Documents available on the FCC's websites (e.g., applications and reports filed through CDBS) do not need to be uploaded.
- Letters and e-mails from the public need not be uploaded. However, such materials must be kept in a file at the main studio. Comments left on social media sites do not have to be maintained anywhere.
- Shared services agreements and written sponsorship identifications will not have to be made available in any public file.
- While political broadcasting materials will have to be maintained on- line, this requirement will apply only to materials created after the effective date of the new rules. Paper files going back two years from the effective date also must be maintained.
Other requirements relating to electronic political files include:
- Stations affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC in the top-50 markets must comply with the electronic political disclosure rule as soon as it is effective or as soon as the FCC data system can receive the materials, whichever is later. Other stations will not have to comply until July 1, 2014.
- Stations will have to immediately post orders from candidates for specific ad schedules, but will not be required to post general requests by candidates regarding availabilities and/or rates.
- The posting of records concerning disposition of requests may be delayed until bills are rendered in the normal course of business.
- Licensees will have to maintain their own local back-up copies of their political files, but not of the remainder of their online public files.
Stations will have six months after the effective date of the new rules to upload existing public file materials, subject to the exceptions noted above. Newly created materials must be uploaded as soon the rules become effective and the FCC's website is ready to receive them.
- On or before Aug. 1, 2012, noncommercial TV and Class A stations in California, North Carolina and South Carolina must file their biennial ownership reports.
- On or before Aug. 1, 2012, television stations, Class A TV, LPTV stations and TV translators in North Carolina and South Carolina must file their license renewal applications.
- On Aug. 1, 2012, TV and Class A TV stations in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands must begin their pre-filing renewal announcements in anticipation of an Oct. 1, 2012, renewal application filing date.
- On Aug. 1, 2012, television and Class A TV stations in the following states must place their 2012 EEO reports in their public files and post them on their websites: California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Harry C. Martin is a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, PLC.
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