Published on:

Special Advisory for Commercial and Noncommercial Broadcasters: Meeting the Radio and Television Public Inspection File Requirements


This Advisory is designed to help commercial and noncommercial radio and television stations comply with the FCC’s public inspection file rules. See 47 C.F.R. §§ 73.3526 and 73.3527. This Advisory tracks the public access, content, retention and organizational requirements of those regulations. Previous editions of this Advisory are obsolete, and should not be relied upon.

As of the date of this Advisory, the FCC is considering petitions for reconsideration of two new, but not yet effective, regulations that will have an impact on public inspection files maintained by television broadcast stations. One will require every full-power and Class A television station with a website to post a duplicate set of virtually the entire contents of their current “paper-based” public inspection file on their website. The second will require such television stations, on a quarterly basis, to complete a new report entitled “Standardized Television Disclosure Form” using new FCC Form 355, file that report with the FCC, place a copy of the completed report in the station’s public inspection file, and post the report on the station’s website, if it has one. As mentioned, neither of these two new requirements is legally effective at this time. It should be noted that representatives of the broadcast industry have challenged both requirements, and it is not possible to predict the outcome of those challenges. Accordingly, stations should evaluate what steps they may need to take to come into compliance with these new regulations at a later date. We intend to update this Advisory if and when either of those two requirements goes into effect.

Public Access to the Public Inspection File
The FCC requires every applicant, permittee, and licensee of a full-power AM, FM, and TV station or of a Class A TV station to maintain a local public inspection file. The purpose of this file, according to the Commission, is “to make information to which the public already has a right more readily available, so that the public will be encouraged to play a more active part in a dialogue with broadcast licensees.” Because the public file rules are part of the FCC’s commitment to responsive broadcasting, the importance of broadcaster compliance with these rules cannot be overemphasized. (continued…)

A PDF version of this entire article can be found at Special Advisory for Commercial and Noncommercial Broadcasters: Meeting the Radio and Television Public Inspection File Requirements.