A Note About Station Online Public Files

Posted on January 31st, 2020 by

By now, almost every commercial and noncommercial broadcast station knows about and is maintaining an online public file on the FCC hosted platform.  Because the FCC’s system places a date/time stamp on every document upload, there is no way to hide a late filing.  That becomes relevant at license renewal time, when stations must certify whether they always timely uploaded documents in the public file.  Even one late report will require a “no” response and the completion and upload of an explanatory exhibit.

We’ve printed the above public service announcement in these pages before, and it is worth repeating.  But this article is about nightmarish hiccups that even well-intentioned and skilled personnel can create while working to comply with the rules. For example, if someone deletes a timely uploaded document because they saw an error, and uploads a corrected one after the deadline for that item, the updated document will have the actual date/time it was uploaded and therefore be late.  Be cautious about creating new folders for documents, as the act of placing them in the new folder has been known to change the date/time on each document. If a document is uploaded in the wrong folder, there is a “move” button to select so that when is reappears in the correct folder, it retains its original upload date/time.

As your station nears renewal and someone reviews the online file to be sure of compliance, only have them note a late or misplaced document in the folder.  Instruct them not to attempt an immediate fix but instead to collect the information and consult with counsel or another skilled online file specialist. You do not want a well-intentioned fix attempt to create the wrong impression that one or more documents were uploaded late.  If all else fails and problems are introduced on the eve of license renewal, there is a “history” tab that can provide helpful evidence of prior compliant actions so that a station can defend itself against fines for what appear to be late uploads.