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FCC Proposes Framework for Online Station Public Notices

Points to rise of net and FCC station document database

The FCC has voted on a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing changes to update the FCC’s rules to bring broadcast application public notifications into the digital age.

TV and radio stations had been required to file “certain applications” in “a local newspaper,” or “on air” and in some cases both, depending on the type of application, the primary reason being to direct them to the station’s studio, where they could review the documents.

But with the rise of internet usage and the FCC’s migration of those station application documents from their studios to an online database (some written notice requirements remain), the FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai said that it needed to change and has now come up with a plan, which the commission adopted at the Sept. 26 open meeting and will still need to be subject for public comment before a final order is voted:

  • “Replace the newspaper publication requirement with written public notice posted online on a publicly accessible website (either the station’s site or an affiliated site) with a link to the application;”
  • “Simplify and standardize the public notice requirements for on-air announcements (they must direct the public to the FCC database);
  • “Clarify certain local public notice obligations, such as those pertaining to international broadcast stations and low-power FM stations;” and
  • “Streamline and update the commission’s rules concerning public notice for stations designated for hearing.”

“I am pleased that this item recognizes that local public notice of licensing activity is required by statute, and searches for ways to use modern tools to make it more effective,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. “Specifically, I support the item’s proposals to continue to require both on-air and written notice of certain licensing proceedings and questions on the best way to offer such notice online. I am hopeful that a robust record will develop on these issues.”

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said the FCC needs to eliminate or modify “all” government burdens on broadcasters so they can compete with unregulated competitors. He said he strongly supported the item and hopes the FCC can move to an order quickly. Commissioner Brendan Carr agreed. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called it a “smart update.”

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