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FCC Looking to Modernize Local Public Notice Rule

Commission says rules have become “needlessly complex”

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to create a standardized set of rules when it comes to the listing of local public notices by broadcast applicants.

In a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) released at its September Open Meeting, the FCC proposed updating the current rule that says TV and radio broadcast applicants must give public notice to the local communities they serve when filing certain applications. The current rule requires applicants to provide written notice in a local newspaper or broadcast on-air messages that announce the filing of an application (or in some cases, to do both).

But because the notice requirements differ based on the type of applicant, station and application, the FCC said that the rules have become “needlessly complex.” Plus, given the ubiquity of online information sources coupled with the elimination of the main studio rule, and the transition from physical to online public inspection files, the current rules have become “anachronistic,” the commission said.

As a result, the FNPRM is proposing to modernize and simplify the public notice requirements, reducing the costs and burdens of the existing procedures, and making it easier for the public to participate in the licensing process.

“I remain strongly supportive of the merits of removing the newspaper publication requirement and other reforms and seek to move the item to final order expeditiously,” said FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. But he said that any final proposal that supports what O’Rielly calls “burdensome information disclosures, additional script language or litigation traps for stations in the form of compliance burdens” will find O’Rielly in opposition.

In all, the FNPRM proposes to:

  • Replace the current newspaper publication requirement with a written public notice posted online on a publicly accessible website that includes a direct link to the broadcast application in question;
  • Simplify and standardize the public notice requirements for on-air announcements;
  • Clarify the local public notice obligations of international broadcast stations and low-power FM stations; and
  • Update the commission’s rules concerning public notice for stations designated for evidentiary hearings.

All four commissioners and the chairman approved the notice of proposed rulemaking. The FNPRM will be accepting comments in the ECFS database using Media Bureau Docket numbers 05-6, 17-105, 17-264.

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