As those that receive our Pillsbury Client Advisories know (you can sign up for those here), April 10th was the deadline for placing various quarterly reports in your station’s public inspection file. With many radio stations having shifted to an online public file on March 1st, this was the first quarterly deadline falling after that conversion. As a result, consider this a friendly reminder that if you dutifully prepared your Quarterly Issues/Programs List a few weeks ago and then unthinkingly dropped it into the file drawer like you’ve done a hundred times before, you’ve got a problem. The Quarterly Issues/Programs List that was required to be uploaded by April 10th details programming aired from January 1, 2018 through March 31, 2018 designed to serve the needs and interests of your station’s community.
If you generated a paper copy of the List, but forgot that it now must be uploaded, be sure to make a note of that fact and upload it as soon as possible. Broadcasters are asked in their license renewal applications to certify that all documents have been timely placed in the public inspection file. With the FCC’s public file database now logging the precise time a document is submitted, failing to properly disclose any late-filed documents is not only easy for the FCC to spot, but creates added risk for stations that falsely certify in their license renewal applications that the public file was complete at all times. With license renewals occurring only once every eight years, even a few “oops” moments each year can soon begin to look like a “pattern of noncompliance” to the FCC.
There is, however, a very select group of stations that received a bye on the April 10 uploads. The FCC announced this week that it was granting a small number of waiver requests filed by various stations seeking more time to meet the online public file deadline. While these stations had sought relief from the requirement for varying periods of time, the FCC’s response was not so specialized. It instead granted each of the stations seeking more time until June 23, 2018 (60 days from release of the Order) to comply with the online public inspection file requirement.
The FCC also made clear in the Order that it will not be providing such generalized relief in the future. Going forward, any station seeking more time must provide information that demonstrates (1) the economic hardship the station would incur in complying with the online public file requirement; (2) the station’s technical inability to do so; or (3) another reason for a waiver as described in the 2016 Expanded Online Public File Order.
So if you are one of the select few stations that received a little extra time to move to an online public file, it’s your Second Quarter Issues/Programs List that will be the test of whether you have successfully moved to an online public file mindset. For all other stations, your time is already up.