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Commercial, Noncommercial TV Broadcasters to Post Files to FCC Website

New procedure “harnesses current technology to make information concerning broadcast service more accessible to the public and, over time, reduce broadcasters’ costs of compliance”
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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will require licensed commercial and noncommercial television broadcasters to post their public inspection files to an online file on the FCC’s website.

On May 11, 2012, the FCC posted a Federal Register notice—Standardized and Enhanced Disclosure Requirements for Television Broadcast Licensee Public Interest Obligations; Extension of the Filing Requirement for Children’s Television Programming Report (FCC Form 398)—which says it is modernizing the procedures television broadcasters use to inform the public about how the stations serve communities by having stations post their public files online in a FCC-hosted database, rather than maintaining the files locally at their main studios.

The updating of the FCC’s public service disclosure rules seeks to “replace the decades-old requirement that commercial and noncommercial television stations maintain a public file at their main studios with a requirement to post most of the documents in that file to an online public file to be hosted by the commission,” the rule says. By doing so the FCC says it will “harnesses current technology to make information concerning broadcast service more accessible to the public and, over time, reduce broadcasters’ costs of compliance.”

However, in order to “better ensure” the FCC can accommodate television broadcasters' online filings, as well as limit any unforeseen start-up difficulties to those stations that are best able to address the document posting regulation, the new document posting requirements will be phase in over “the next two years,” the commission says.

During the phase in period, the FCC will only require stations that are affiliated with ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox and that are licensed to serve communities in the top 50 “designated market areas” to post the relevant documents online. All other stations are exempt from posting those documents to the FCC’s online public file until July 1, 2014.

In addition, the FCC defers considering whether to adopt online posting for radio licensees and multichannel video programming distributors until the commission gains experience with online posting of television broadcasters’ public files, the notice says.

Nonetheless, the FCC will issue a public notice seeking comment on the impact of this posting requirement by July 1, 2013, the current notice says.

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