FCC Issues Fines and Admonishments to TV Stations for Public File Late Uploads

Posted on July 30th, 2021 by

We have long surmised that online public file late uploads for TV stations this renewal cycle would result in monetary fines because TV stations were using the online public file (instead of paper) for the entire 8-year license term (unlike radio, which transitioned in 2018).

In recent days, our hunch has proven accurate.  The FCC admonished a TV station in Virginia for uploading one issues/programs list more than one year late and 11 others between one day and one month late.

But other TV stations in Virginia received notices of apparent liability for monetary forfeitures for uploading four quarterly issues/programs lists more than a year late and three between one day and one month late in one case, and uploading five lists more than a year late, one list between one month and one year late, and three lists between one day and one month late in another.  The licensee of both stations noted that the lists were timely prepared but not uploaded due to an administrative oversight.  That oversight cost the licensee $9,000.

Maybe one day the FCC will enable its systems to allow stations to set up reminder emails or text messages so OPIF uploads are not missed.  But until then, calendaring these with multiple reminders across multiple devices and employees is a good idea.  Otherwise, stations will have the privilege of parting with cash.

Thus far, the Media Bureau has treated radio stations much more leniently than TV during renewal application processing.  We believe this is because radio had only transitioned to the online public file in early 2018.  Late uploads for radio stations – even in situations where most quarterly issues/programs list uploads for the license term are uploaded just before filing the renewal application – have, so far, not resulted in fines or admonishments. Of course, completely missing uploads for radio receives much more scrutiny, but often result in a consent decree without a fine.  The TV decisions above reflect an entirely different approach.

We strongly encourage broadcasters to implement procedures that involve at least two-person knowledge and control of public file uploads to avoid any oversights.  The date and time of public file uploads is readily apparent for each item uploaded, so there is no hiding from noncompliance.  As a reminder, if a document is uploaded to the wrong folder in the public file, there is an option to relocate it to the proper folder and retain its original date/time stamp.  Deleting and re-uploading a document will result in a new date/time stamp, and if that action is taken after a deadline, the upload will show up as late.