It looks like some radio stations may’ve missed the March 1 deadline to make the leap to an online local public inspection file The move required stations to activate their account on the database run by the Federal Communications Commission. But the Media Bureau says an unspecified number of stations never did that and so the FCC has announced it will activate all remaining accounts on Nov. 15.
The FCC began transitioning radio and television to online public files in 2012 with the first group of radio stations, which included commercial stations in the top 50 markets, required to make the move by June 2016. All other stations were required to make the digital leap in March 2018. The new rules mean that all required documents must be placed in the online public file with the exception of any political file material created before the March 1 launch date for the last batch of stations to make the leap. For stations that have been posting documents to the FCC’s searchable portal website for the past two years, the FCC expects those stations to already have all their political file material in their online file.
The FCC’s reminder could also be read as a warning. Theoretically any document missing from a public file, from a contour map to a political file, could result in a fine of $10,000 or more. Broadcast attorneys have told clients that because the public inspection file is now easier to access by any regulator working in Washington, stations need to ensure their public inspection file is complete.
Attorney Scott Flick pointed out on a webinar earlier this year that the FCC has taken the position that there are fewer rules to comply with so the agency is going to be much harsher about violations. “Don’t be fooled by the feeling that we are in a deregulatory era and therefore this is becoming less important,” he told broadcasters, adding, “Odds are pretty good that we are going to be seeing larger public inspection file fines coming down the road.”