‘Twas the night before Christmas,
and all through the station,
staffers laughed and sang carols,
and enjoyed jubilation.
Except for the staffers in charge of the file,
who were sweating and cursing a deadline most vile.
A Christmas Eve deadline that was set by the fed,
a public file deadline that kept them from bed.
With December 24 approaching, radio stations across the country are checking their quarterly programs/issues lists twice, lest the FCC leave coal in their stocking this holiday season (and no, nothing even comes close to rhyming with “quarterly programs/issues lists”).
As we’ve posted previously and detailed in our Public Inspection File Special Advisory, the FCC adopted a Report and Order earlier this year extending its online public file requirements to broadcast radio stations, starting with commercial radio stations in the Top-50 Nielsen Audio markets with five or more full-time employees.
Beginning June 24, 2016, these “First-Wave” radio stations were required to upload, on a going-forward basis, all public file materials created on or after that date (with the exception of letters and emails from the public, which, as we’ve explained before, should not be uploaded to the online file due to privacy concerns and instead must be maintained in the local public file). The online public file requirements won’t kick in for all other radio stations until March 1, 2018.
These First Wave radio stations have until December 24, 2016 to upload all public file documents created prior to June 24. There are a few exceptions. The first (for the reason noted above) is letters and emails from the public. The FCC has had a proceeding pending since May to eliminate this requirement entirely, but has not yet done so. The other exception is political file materials, which stations need only upload on a going-forward basis. First Wave stations may continue to retain political file documentation that existed prior to June 24 in their local public files until the expiration of the two-year retention period.
On the TV side, where online public files have been the norm since 2012, the FCC has handed out admonishments and thousands of dollars in fines to stations for failing to upload all required materials on time. While many Americans try to save money by delaying their shopping until after Christmas, missing this Christmas Eve rush could be quite expensive. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau doesn’t believe in post-holiday discounts.