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Radio to begin online migration of public/political files in 2016

 - Big 4 start first, before Nov. election

As widely expected, the FCC has adopted plans for radio stations to follow their TV brethren in migrating their public and political files online, with the top four markets in Texas starting this year and remaining markets required to transition by March 1, 2018.

The FCC’s plan still needs to meet muster with the paperwork-minders at the Office of Management and Budget, but that is likely to happen well ahead of this year’s general election in November.

Details on the new rule are still murky, but this much is known:

  • Materials filed with the FCC, such as broadcast applications and reports filed through CDBS will be automatically added to the online file by the FCC. Most everything else in the public file now will have to be uploaded in electronic form by stations.
  • Documents already in the existing political file will not need to be uploaded to the online file, though they must be retained for at least two years. New documents received after the effective date of the online system will have to be uploaded immediately, absent unusual circumstances.
  • Letters from the public will not have to be uploaded to online files, but must be retained in paper files for viewing by members of the public. The FCC already has expressed its intent to determine whether even retention of hard copies of such letters is necessary.
  • The online filing requirement will commence when the FCC’s online system is available.
  • Stations in Texas’ four largest markets with five or more full-time employees will have to comply first and will have six months after the online system launches to upload files.  Stations at that staffing level in the remaining markets won’t have to comply until March 1, 2018.
  • Housekeeping – Stations will have to identify one individual to be listed in the online public file as the contact person for that file.  Stations will still have to provide on their websites a separate link to their EEO materials.

The phase-in of this rule and exclusion of stations with very small staffs were two provisions TAB initiated when industry groups began submitting guidance to the FCC on this matter.  TAB will update stations on more details of the rule as they are released.

While this new rulemaking brings some consistency to FCC policy for stations’ recordkeeping, it will subject stations to scrutiny by national special interest groups based in far-flung locales that will likely track political spending, as well as programming and hiring trends in the radio industry.

Questions? Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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