The FCC and the Government Shutdown

Posted on January 4th, 2019 by

The U.S. Government shutdown has yet to impact the FCC, and it is business as usual through 12:00 midnight EST on January 2, 2019. That’s when the FCC will run out of existing funds and begin limiting its operations.

The FCC’s Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations is pretty generic, so we can’t definitively say what electronic systems will or won’t be available. In the last major shutdown during the Obama Administration, the online public file system hosted by the FCC was not accessible. At that time, only TV stations were using the system, and the outage overlapped a deadline for filing quarterly reports, which wreaked havoc with having to later explain that quarterly reports uploaded after the deadline were the fault of the FCC, not the broadcaster. We ended up writing those very words in a number of renewal applications to explain the “late” uploads.

Just in case anyone at the FCC is listening, our vote would be to leave the online public file system fully operational for the entire government shutdown, especially since all broadcast stations are now using the online public file system. After all, the public file is all about the public having access, right? Who wouldn’t want that, especially during a government shutdown? That would surely fit the “public interest”, right? We admit that those last three sentences are a bit passive-aggressive, but then again, why not?

On the chance that the online public file is not accessible after January 2, it might just be a good idea to load up your station’s 2018 4th quarter reports on Wednesday, January 2nd even though they are not due until January 10th. For radio stations, that would be the quarterly issues and programs list. For full power TV stations, that would include quarterly issues and programs lists, certification of compliance with children’s television commercial limits, children’s television reports (which have to be filed in LMS of course). Class A TV stations would upload the same items as TV stations, plus a certification of continued Class A eligibility. For any TV or Class A TV station that is transitioning to a new post-auction channel, throw in your quarterly transition progress report as well (also due January 10th). Oh, and for any noncommercial station that conducted third-party fundraising in the fourth quarter of 2018, add the report for that activity to your stack.

It is always possible that the FCC will issue a public notice on January 2, 2019 announcing extensions of filing deadlines, which would be helpful. We do anticipate a public notice of some sort, but what it will contain is anyone’s guess. Here’s a nugget of salient advice – check the FCC’s website on January 2nd. That way, you have the very latest.