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Feb. 4 deadline looms for TV online public inspection file

That whirring sound you’re hearing at Texas TV stations right now, hopefully, is the sound of scanners reproducing thousands of pages of documents for uploading to the FCC’s website.

If your TV station has already uploaded the bulk of public file materials to the FCC’s online public inspection file system, you’re ahead of the game.

TV stations across the U.S. are fighting to meet the Feb. 4 deadline for full-power and Class A television stations to complete the uploading process.

Given the sheer size of public inspection files, the uploading process can be very labor intensive, and stations that have not yet commenced that process should immediately turn their attention to it.

The reason is simple – changes to the online public file are recorded by date and time, so post Feb. 4 uploading of the original source material will stand out like a sore thumb.

The FCC has not hesitated to impose public file fines.

Paul Cicelski, an attorney with TAB’s FCC legal counsel Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, said the firm has definitely seen a trend by the FCC of issuing $15,000 fines rather than the base fine of $10,000.

Cicelski said stations must inventory their current paper public inspection file to determine which documents need to be uploaded to the FCC's website.

“While the focus has been on shifting the paper files into an online public file database, stations must remember that they will still be required to keep, at a minimum, the emails and letters from the public in the paper public file at each station's main studio, and therefore take steps to ensure that the public will still be able to access that file during normal business hours,” Cicelski said.

In other words, just because most of the file will be online, the procedures for allowing the public to promptly review public file materials that remain at the main studio must remain in place, including the need to ensure that the public can access the file during lunch hours.

Cicelski cautions stations that their public inspection files are now open to anyone with an Internet connection, making it far less likely that any omissions will go unnoticed.

About the only good news involved with the entire process is that the FCC has indicated it will automatically upload a number of documents to a station’s online public file such as authorizations, applications, ownership reports (Form 323), etc.

Stations, however, are still on the hook for verifying that all materials are indeed posted to the online public file.

For more information about the uploading requirements, stations should read the Pillsbury law firm firm’s briefs on the subject here and here.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Micheal Schneider or call 512-322-9944.

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