Every eight years, broadcasters must apply to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for renewal of their licenses. The renewal application cycle begins for radio stations in June 2011 and for television stations in June 2012. Now is the time to start getting your house in order in anticipation of filing your license renewal application. Each of our upcoming newsletters will highlight a component of the license renewal process-this time, our focus is on Quarterly Issues/Programs Reports. Note, too, that Wiley Rein has more detailed guidance memos available on almost all aspects of station compliance associated with license renewal, including specific suggestions about how to prepare an Issues/Programs Report.
Quarterly Issues/Programs Reports are the primary means through which a station documents that it is serving the public interest by airing programming that is responsive to the needs of its local community. Therefore, these reports figure prominently in the license renewal process. While the FCC has no specific form or format for Quarterly Issues/Programs Reports, each report should describe those issues the broadcaster ascertained were relevant to the community during the quarter, as well as demonstrate how the broadcaster's programming was "responsive" to those issues. Should a station's license renewal application be challenged for failure to serve the public interest, Quarterly Issues/Programs Reports may become an important means through which a licensee can demonstrate that its station was serving the needs of the local community during the license term.
While they need not be submitted to the FCC, these reports must be prepared and placed in the station's public inspection file no later than the 10th day of the month following the end of the quarter (i.e., January 10, April 10, July 10 and October 10). The license renewal application requires each licensee to certify that all required material, including the Quarterly Issues/Programs Reports, was placed in the public inspection file at the appropriate time. Failure to prepare and place the reports in the public inspection file in a timely manner has resulted in significant fines for licensees.
As your station prepares for license renewal, review your public inspection file to make sure that it contains an Issues/Programs report for each quarter of your license term, that the reports reflect how your station's programming has addressed the needs of the local community, that the reports were placed in the file in a timely manner and that steps are taken to ensure that the reports remain in the file until your license is renewed.