OPIF – A New Acronym For Your FCC Lexicon

Posted on May 19th, 2016 by

Just when you thought there wasn’t enough room in your brain for another acronym, the FCC has coined a new one. OPIF. Now, I know you’re thinking that on some days, a four letter word might fit nicely for the agency that adopts, changes, and enforces regulations for your business. And we’re sure that you can come up with other words that explain the OPIF acronym. But here’s the skinny – it stands for Online Public Inspection File.

TV broadcasters will be familiar with such a concept, having labored in the online public file fields for these past few years. For them, it has been known as the BPIF – the Broadcast Public Inspection File.

As you may recall, the FCC recently expanded the online public file to many others – radio stations, cable systems, and satellite TV companies, to name a few. So they’ve created a one stop shop for online public files of all kinds (not just for broadcasters), and thus we now will have the OPIF.

The FCC has been working hard to develop the OPIF, and is now ready for others to test drive it, as explained in this notice. Yes, that’s true. By going to this page, you can put in your station’s facility identification number, obtain a passcode, and go for an OPIF drive to see the scenic byways and curious landmarks in the great territory of the online public file.

For TV stations, this test drive is particularly important because on June 24, 2016, the FCC is going to transition the current online public files into the OPIF system, and that will be the only way for TV stations to access their public file going forward. So taking a test drive now is important so that the new format is not completely foreign at the end of June. But a word to the wise: during your test drive, don’t upload new items to the OPIF and assume that they will be there after the June 24th transition. They won’t be. The test drive platform will simply be dumped in the internet ether when the test drive period is over. So while you can practice uploading something in the new OPIF test drive, be sure that you are completing any required uploads into the current system as required.

For radio stations, the test drive is very important for those stations who will have the privilege of starting to use the OPIF earliest. That would be commercial radio stations in the top 50 Nielsen Audio radio markets in the country that have five or more full time employees. Those stations must begin using the OPIF on June 24, 2016. If your commercial station doesn’t meet that criteria, it will enjoy a temporary exemption from the OPIF until March 1, 2018. The same temporary exemption applies to noncommercial radio stations. But these stations would be smart to take OPIF for a test drive now to get a feel for what will be necessary once the compliance deadline arrives.

Welcome to the new age of transparency, where all can see your online public file, and where inspections – for the public or the FCC – are as simple as a few clicks. Consider the upside – you won’t have to have someone there to cheerily greet the public “inspector.” You know – the person that you trained to handle a request to see the file contents by a member of the public, even though no one ever showed up. Ok, so that’s a little sarcastic. But also true, right? In OPIF land, you’ll never even know someone peeked in the file. So compliance will be all the more important. That’s also very true.

If you need a fill-up during your OPIF drive, or have a question about something you’re seeing along the way, let us know. We have an OPIF map and will help you find your way. Or better yet, you can participate in a webinar that the FCC has promised but has not yet been set. Don’t worry, we are confident that an archived copy will be available for your viewing after the live webinar, and we’ll provide a link to it in next month’s newsletter.  Safe driving!