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TAB’s FCC Counsel Revises Public Inspection File Advisory

TAB’s longtime FCC legal counsel, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, recently completed “a top to bottom rewrite” of the firm’s legal advisory on the FCC-required station Public Inspection File.

The new advisory discusses the content, retention, and organizational requirements of the FCC’s public inspection file regulations.

Pillsbury attorneys Scott and Laurie Flick, as well as Jessica Nyman, have worked diligently to create a useful and thorough aid for commercial and noncommercial radio and television stations in complying with the FCC’s Public Inspection File rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 73.3526 and 73.3527. 

The FCC requires every applicant, permittee, or licensee of a full-power AM, FM, or TV station or of a Class A TV station to maintain a Public Inspection File. 

Starting in 2012, the FCC began to “modernize” the broadcast disclosure rules by requiring station licensees to make Public Inspection File information available online in a Commission-hosted database.

For decades, the FCC required that these files be kept at a station’s main studio in paper or electronic form. 

As of March 2020, all licensee Public Inspection File documents were required to be maintained in the FCC’s online Public File database at

Applicants for a new station or change of community of license, however, must still maintain a Public Inspection File “at an accessible place in the proposed community of license.” 

Every station required to maintain an online Public Inspection File must provide a link to its Public Inspection File on the home page of its website if it has one. 

Stations must also provide contact information on its website “for a station representative that can assist any person with disabilities with issues related to the content of the public files.”

The new Pillsbury law firm advisory may be downloaded from the “Member Services” section of

Once there, station staff will need to login to view the “Legal Guides/Hotline” page.

Questions on accessing the Members Services sections of Contact TAB

Regulatory Risks Of An Incomplete Or Untimely Public Inspection File 

Since the station public file is required to be maintained online at the FCC’s website, the commission can review a station’s compliance 24/7.

As the Pillsbury advisory notes, “the FCC is empowered to fine stations for violations of its rules and usually follows a summary procedure in imposing fines for violations of the Public Inspection File rule. The current base fine for failing to maintain a complete Public Inspection File is $10,000, and the FCC may adjust that amount upward if it believes the circumstances surrounding the violation(s) merit it.”

This is especially important when there is an FCC report or form deadline.

An untimely filing could be violating not only the Public Inspection File rule but other rules such as the Biennial Ownership Report filing rule for example.

Late filings can also impact a station’s license renewal. 

“This is particularly true where the licensee has certified in its license renewal application that its Public Inspection File has complied throughout the license term with the FCC’s Public Inspection File rule, only to have FCC staff determine that certification is false,” said the advisory. 

“Misrepresentation can result in loss of license and/or substantial fines.”

The best way of avoiding careless risks is ensuring that the Public Inspection File is continuously complete and up to date so that the licensee can truthfully certify in its license renewal application that it has continuously complied with the Public Inspection File rule. 

The Pillsbury firm also recommends that stations “ensure their staffs are intimately familiar with the Public Inspection File requirements.” 

If there is any uncertainty as to whether a particular document should be placed in the File, contact the TAB Legal Hotline or station counsel.

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

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