Record-keeping rules

In January, the FCC released its television reregulation order. The order heralds a dramatic change in the reporting and record-keeping requirements for television licensees. It imposes standardized and enhanced programming reporting slated to go into effect 60 days after a new reporting form is approved by the Office of Management and Budget and published in the Federal Register. New public file rules, also adopted in the order, take effect 60 days after the FCC's order is published in the Federal Register.

Reporting requirements

The current issues and programs lists required by full-service and Class A licensees will be replaced by the new FCC Form 355. Licensees will have to file the form with the commission electronically each quarter by April 30, July 30, Oct. 30 and Jan. 30.

In the quarterly reports, which cover not only the main broadcast channel but also any additional programming streams, each full-service and Class A licensee is required to describe its programming according to a list of categories, including:

  • national news;
  • local news;
  • local civic affairs;
  • local electoral affairs;
  • local programming;
  • public service announcements;
  • paid public service announcements; • programming from underserved communities;
  • religious programming; and
  • programming that is independently produced.

The report form also requires information on closed captioning of programming. In addition, the form requires a certification that the reporting licensee has undertaken ascertainment efforts to assess the needs of its community, together with a description of any programming it has designed to address those needs.

Public inspection file requirements

Stations with Web sites must post their public inspection files online. Stations without Web sites must post their files on their state broadcaster association Web site, if permitted to do so.

Stations must give notice twice daily (including at least once between 6 p.m. and midnight) that the station's public inspection file is available at the station's main studio and on its Web site.

While political files are not required to be posted on the Web site, e-mails (but not public correspondence received in hard copy) from the public must be included in the electronic public file. Stations must retain hard copies of all letters and e-mails from the public in their hard copy public inspection files.

Some documents, such as children's television reports, which are required to be included in the public file, are also available on the FCC's Web site. If a licensee wants simply to link to such documents on the FCC site (or on any site where the documents may be located, as long as access to that target site does not require any payment or registration), it may do so.

Harry C. Martin is a past president of the Federal Communications Bar Association and a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, PLC.

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  • April 1 is the deadline for TV stations in Texas to file their biennial ownership reports.
  • In the following states, April 1 is also is the deadline for TV, Class A and LPTV stations that originate programming to place their annual EEO reports in their public files and place them on their Web sites: Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.