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Last Required Element of a Physical Public File is Now Gone

It’s the end of an era for broadcasters – the official requirement for letters and emails from the public to be kept in a broadcaster’s public inspection file.

The FCC abolished the requirement back in January but it wasn’t effective until the publishing of the FCC’s decision in the Federal Register which took place on June 29.

As attorney David Oxenford with TAB Associate Member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer has noted previously, the move is one of several deregulatory initiatives undertaken by new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Oxenford said the delay in publication of the notice “was caused by the review of the decision by the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that it was consistent with the Paperwork Reduction Act.”

He notes that it seems like a self-evident proposition, but one that takes time nevertheless.

So what does the mean for TV stations and many radio stations?

TV stations have already converted to an online public file, and the publishing in the Federal Register means that there is no longer a physical public file onsite.

Letters and emails from the public were the last paper vestiges of one.

It’s the same thing for commercial radio stations in the top 50 Nielsen markets.

All other radio stations don’t have to make the online public file move until March 1, 2018.

Those radio stations who have not yet made the move to an online public file can read Oxenford’s article on what’s required and the timeframe for implementation.

TAB would like to say it’s the end of a physical public file for all stations, but Oxenford notes that for some radio stations, the paper Public File will line on for short time – two years to be exact.


“For some stations who do not upload past political documents (only new political documents need to be uploaded to the online public file), the last remnants of the paper file could linger for two years from the date of the creation of the last political file document that is created before a station’s conversion to the online public file,” Oxenford said.

He thinks this latest effective rule change might provide a further incentive to a quick conversion to the online file by those radio stations who have not already done so.

For now, the important thing to remember is that the decision to abolish the requirement to maintain physical letters and printed emails from the public in a station’s public file is now in effect.

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

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