All FCC Online Systems, Including Online Public Files, Are Offline Due to Shutdown

Posted on October 2nd, 2013 by

Full power television and Class A television licensees who have become accustomed to having their public files online are now faced with another casualty of the shutdown of the federal government.  The FCC has taken offline all of its online portals, including online public files.  This means that nothing can be uploaded to the online public file nor can they be viewed by the public.  This presents two thorny issues for television and Class A broadcasters: what do you do when someone from the public requests to see your public file and how do you handle the upcoming filings due on October 10th?

9677091375_a42a842c24_zFirst, the good news is that the FCC has addressed what happens if you have a filing due while the Commission is shut down.  Filings are not due until the business day after the day normal operations resume.  So, if the shutdown is resolved on Thursday, normal operations resume on Friday, filings would not be due until the next Monday, which is the next business day.  Should the Commission have difficulty getting the online portals back up in time, they may issue further waivers of deadlines.

Second, the question of how to respond to members of the public who request documents from the public file is not answered by the Commission.  It is unlikely that the staffers had time to think about this issue during the mere four hours they had on Monday to wrap up work before closing everything down.  The best practice, however, is to try to be as accommodating as possible given the situation.  To the extent that you still have hard copies of your public file from before the online switch last year, you can access those and provide them to the public.  For documents that exist solely online (for example, Children’s TV reports or renewal applications filed since the online switch), see if you have paper back ups just in case to provide. If not, you will be unable to fulfill the request but explain exactly why it is that you are unable to.

And, what about the filings that are due on October 10th? Commercial TV and Class A stations have Children’s TV reports (Form 398) to file as well as the responsibility to post information about their commercial limits in children’s programming for the last quarter.  NCE and commercial stations also have the responsibility to prepare and post issues/program reports for the last quarter. Class A stations also have to prepare and post their quarterly Class A eligibility certification.  To the extent that the Children’s TV filing system is incapacitated and may be so through October 10, it is very likely that the waiver of the deadline outlined above will apply.  With respect to the other quarterly items (children’s tv commercial limits records, Class eligibility and issues/program reports), you should still prepare those on time and place paper copies in your physical public file until such time as the system comes back up.

Hopefully the shutdown will be shortlived and the Commission will be able to get back to business – and filings – as usual.  If not, be prepared for paper cuts from all of the manual filing you will be back to doing.