Comments Wanted: Minority Ownership Report and TV Political Online Public File

Posted on July 14th, 2013 by

The FCC would like to hear from broadcasters on two significant issues.

On the first, the FCC has asked for comments by July 22, 2013 on an ownership study submitted to the FCC by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) in late May. The MMTC report is titled “The Impact of Cross Media Ownership on Minority/Women Owned Broadcast Stations.” The report concluded that “cross-media interests’ impact on minority and women broadcast ownership is not sufficient material to be a material justification for tightening or retaining the rules. MMTC suggested that the FCC seek additional comment from the public on the report as part of the ongoing open proceedings concerning media ownership and diversity.

On the second issue, the FCC is attempting to assess the impact of its new rule requiring television stations to place  political file information in their online public file.Those comments are due no later than August 26, 2013. TV broadcasters originally objected to this requirement, and even proposed alternatives, but the FCC adopted the requirement anyway. NAB challenged the new rules in court, but has asked the court to delay ruling until the FCC considers its challenges, and potentially changes the rules.

Several weeks later, TV stations raised liability concerns related to the online political file information when the bank account of an ad agency was unlawfully accessed based upon a copy of a check included in a station’s online public file.

Currently, the online posting requirement for political files applies only to about 240 stations affiliated with the top four networks in the top 50 DMAs. All other stations are exempt from posting political file material online until July 1, 2014. The FCC’s public notice seeks comment on the impact of the rules before they take effect for other stations next year. In addition, the FCC has asked for comments on a pending petition for reconsideration file by several TV station owners challenging whether the specific spot rate information should be posted online, as opposed to being retained in the hard-copy public file at the station.

The FCC’s notice includes some interesting statistics. For example, over 361,000  documents have been uploaded into the online public file, including over 66,000 documents in political files. During the month leading up to the November 6, 2012 general election, stations uploaded nearly 27,000 documents to political files, peaking at 1,582 documents uploaded on November 5. In addition, the public file has attracted over 2.5 million page views on 500,000 unique visits to the site. The busiest day was September 11, 2012, on which the site attracted 5,296 visits.

Comments in these two proceedings can be filed electronically using the FCC’s online comment filing system.