FCC Gets An Earful On Radio Online Public Files

Posted on September 22nd, 2014 by

Remember that public notice last month asking for comments about online public files for cable and satellite companies? You know, the one where the FCC whimsically added “and what about online files for radio too” as a subtitle, even though the petition that was filed said nothing about radio? Yeah, that’s the one.

Well, it turns out that whimsical subtitle may not have been one of the FCC’s brightest ideas. Radio broadcasters, either individually or through state associations, gave the FCC numerous good reasons to rethink their plan to squeeze in a rulemaking on radio online public files. Many commenters questioned the FCC’s ability to handle the volume of information given previously cited problems for TV, and more recent failings of other FCC online systems. Several provided data and input on the burden radio online public files would pose. Some noncommercial outlets expressed concern over sensitive data (donor names) required to be in their public files.

Individual broadcasters cited to the 2013 government shutdown when the FCC halted all access to TV online public files. Many others suggested that a separate rulemaking for radio online public files is necessary, as opposed to one combined with the political issues surrounding the push for cable/satellite. One commenter with many stations noted that no one ever accesses their public files, and questioned the need for online files based on the public’s lack of interest.

All in all, we think the FCC has some pondering to do. But that requires them to listen and read first. Perhaps a computer system overhaul at the FCC is a better first step.

Oh, and one final thought. If, as the FCC has held in the past, the internet alone is an insufficient means of advertising job openings under its EEO rules, how is it that the internet is the default answer for public file accessibility? Apparently, the public that the FCC thinks is not online to see job notices is very much online when it comes to public file accessibility. A little consistency would help.