FCC, Please Update Your Self-Inspection Lists

A plea from a veteran broadcaster and former compliance inspector
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I’m writing to urge broadcast licensees, retired air talent and anyone ever involved with U.S. broadcasting to urge the Federal Communications Commission to revise its seven “FCC Self-Inspection Checklists,” a set of booklets that address, respectively, AMs, FMs, TVs, Class A TVs, FM translators, LPFMs, and low-power TV, TV translators and TV boosters. (See them at https://www.fcc.gov/general/broadcast-self-inspection-checklists.)

These lists involve topics like joint sales agreements, political advertising, biennial ownership reviews, letters from the public, public files online and community of license. But they are now substantially outdated or lack critical information.

I’m a veteran of 60 years in broadcasting; I’ve written broadcast and print news and commentary and was one of the first talk show radio hosts in 1961. But more to the point, I worked for 26 years as an Alternative FCC Compliance Certification Inspector. I’ve questioned many practices that involve substantial unwarranted costs for radio and television licensees.

As one of the original “Alternative Inspectors,” I visited hundreds of stations, some on a triennial schedule.

During inspections the lack of regulatory transparency became a serious concern when I was ordered not to assist any station to achieve compliance during my inspections. This mandate prompted my exit from the program under the control of most state broadcast associations.

More than one station I certified was later fined for such things as public file items, pilfered by disgruntled former employees who would report missing items as violations to the commission. In each case I provided the commission with a copy of my inspection report, after which the fines were rescinded. In another instance a station had a “hold” placed on its license renewal for a nonexistent FCC violation. The licensee and I visited the commission in Washington, and the matter was corrected in less than 15 minutes — but only after the licensee had spent thousands of dollars in unproductive legal expenses over 18 months.

The seven FCC self-inspection lists were notable in the past for being written in plain English without incomprehensible legalese. But they have not been addressed for far too long. Updating them could save licensees millions of dollars each year in fines, fees, forfeitures and most significantly legal expenses, if they would be read and carefully followed.

In hopes of prompting change I’ve founded the Coalition for Transparency, Clarification & Simplification for Regulations Pertaining to American Broadcasting, a nonprofit volunteer group based in Tucson, Ariz. funded by the sale of obsolete broadcast equipment. You can contact me by email: bennerassociates@me.com

More importantly, I suggest you send a request for updates to the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at ajit.pai@fcc.gov and Rosemary Harold, chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau, at rosemary.harold@fcc.gov.

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