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How soon will radio face an online FCC Public File requirement?

TAB has been talking about it since Texas TV stations were required to first post political information and then the entire Public File contents online at the FCC’s website – that is, radio stations should expect a similar requirement soon.

It has taken a couple of years, but attorney David Oxenford with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer says the FCC appears poised to decide what to do with its proposals for an online public inspection file for radio stations.

So what’s the indicator that’s prompting the speculation?

The FCC’s list of “Items on Circulation” (orders that have been written and are being considered for approval by the FCC Commissioners) indicates that the decision has been written and was provided to the commissioners for their consideration on Dec. 21, 2015.

Oxenford said that “could mean that a decision on this matter is imminent.”

He notes that items on circulation can be quickly approved, though if they are controversial, they may languish or even disappear.

It is rare, but there have been times that an order has been drafted and presented to the commissioners for consideration, and the draft order never sees the light of day.

Oxenford has previously written on the FCC’s idea of an online Public File requirement for U.S. radio stations here and here.

Late last year, the FCC quickly moved the proposal from a Notice of Inquiry to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, prompting some to think that the FCC’s intent was to get the order out so that it could be implemented in time for the 2016 elections (as one of the drivers of the proposal is online access to political ad buying information).

Oxenford said that may still be the intent, though how quickly the FCC can provide the technology to host the thousands of radio stations that may be subject to any such rule may be a significant limitation (though the FCC did propose a phased-in approach, requiring larger stations to go online first, perhaps minimizing the commission’s technical burden).

Oxenford’s advice to Texas radio stations?

Keep your eyes open, as an order on this matter is circulating among the commissioners, and we may not have long until we see what they decide.

Questions? Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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