Broadcasters Drop Appeal of FCC Requirement to Upload Public Files to FCC Database


Today, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) voluntarily withdrew its appeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) requirement to upload its public inspection files online to an FCC database.  The NAB had appealed the 2008 Order imposing the online file requirement, which required television stations to put these files in digital format and make them more readily available online.  The Campaign Legal Center, along with Common Cause and the Benton Foundation, represented by the Institute for Public Representation of Georgetown Law, intervened in support of the FCC.  The case had been held in abeyance as the FCC dealt with petitions for reconsideration and as the broadcasters gauged the impact of the new requirement.

The FCC phased in the requirement.  First, top-four affiliate stations in the top 50 markets had to upload their files beginning in 2012.  Then, the FCC gradually expanded the requirement to all broadcasters in all TV markets last year.  Implementation of the online file has been smooth.

“Requiring broadcasters to put their public file online was a no-brainer,” said Meredith McGehee, Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center.  “Both its name and its purpose reflect the intention that the file be publicly accessible, but the public virtually never saw them unless they were willing to travel to the station and request the opportunity to review them.  Broadcasters maintain their programming information in digital format, so in fact it was more burdensome for the stations to produce the statutorily required information on paper.”

“Now the FCC should take the next logical steps to require the information to be filed in a standardized, searchable, and sortable database.  Currently, most stations upload ’pdfs’ with no standard format. And further the agency should follow through on its proposed rulemaking to expand the requirements to cable, satellite and radio.”

In December, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would expand the online requirements to cable, satellite and radio.  The rulemaking process was initiated in response to a petition filed last year by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation, represented by the Institute for Public Representation of Georgetown Law.  The groups encouraged the agency to act expeditiously on the request.

To read the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, click here.

To read the petition for rulemaking, click here