In our Memorandum of January 28, 2016, we described the FCC’s expansion of the online public file requirement to cable TV, DBS, broadcast and satellite radio stations. Until now, only TV stations have been required to keep public inspection file documents online.
In a Public Notice released this past week, the FCC announced that the first group of applicable entities must begin uploading “new” public file documents on June 24, 2016. That first group of entities includes cable systems with more than 1000 subscribers, DBS providers, and commercial radio stations in the top 50 Nielsen radio markets with five or more full-time employees. The ranking of Nielsen radio markets is available here. These entities have an additional six months or until December 24, 2016, to upload pre-existing public file documents (other than pre-existing political file documents) into the FCC’s online database.
All other radio stations (outside of top 50 markets or fewer than five full-time employees) have two more years or until March 1, 2018 before they need to upload public files to the FCC’s online database. Cable systems with 1000-4999 subscribers will also have until that date to upload new political file documents. Cable systems with fewer than 1000 subscribers are exempt from the online filing requirement.
Documents that are filed at the FCC (e.g. FCC applications and related materials) will automatically be placed in the online public file by the FCC and need not be uploaded by the stations or systems.
Beginning June 24, 2016, the FCC will be using a new database for online public files. The new database uses an application program interface that can be connected to third party web hosting services, and contains other improvements as well. Among other things, the new database will allow entities to delete documents from the online file. The FCC is providing a demo of the new database accessible to regulated entities here and to the public here, along with other public file information.
Broadcasters must still keep letters and emails from the public in their local public inspection file, i.e. not uploaded to the FCC’s online public file. However, the FCC has begun an inquiry into whether such correspondence need be kept in any public file.