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FCC Revises Public Notice Application Rules

Makes public notices shorter, more uniform; eliminates newspaper requirement

The Federal Communications Commission believes a rule change adopted Wednesday will simplify the process by which broadcasters post certain notices. One commissioner said the change brings the disclosure process into the digital age.

Under the rules in place until now, when a broadcaster filed certain types of applications such as license renewals or transfers of control, it was required to let their communities know of the pending change. Specifically, it required certain applicants to provide written notice in the print edition of a local newspaper or, for radio and TV, to broadcast the filing of an application on-air.

[Read: FCC Looking to Modernize Local Public Notice Rule]

As a result of varying notice requirements imposed over the years, the FCC said, the rule had become “increasingly complex, creating compliance difficulties.” And such notices, it said, “do not easily facilitate public participation in the licensing process because they do not provide direct access to applications.”

Now, instead of publishing the news in a local paper, broadcasters can post the news online on a publicly accessible website that includes a link to the application. For radio, the newspaper publication is replaced by an on-air broadcast of the notice. This must direct listeners to the commission’s online databases where they can view and comment on the application.

It’s about time, according to one commissioner.

“Instead of taking up print space in competing local newspapers — to the extent that such papers even still exist — the new rules will simply require publication on a station website, or an alternative website in certain cases,” said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly in a statement.

The text of the order can be downloaded here.

The order also standardizes public notice requirements for on-air announcements, eliminates prefiling announcements and clarifies the local public notice obligations of international broadcast stations and low-power FM stations.

O’Rielly did question several issues that were included in the draft and raised during the comment process, such as requiring broadcasters to include the notice in a station’s online app. But all in all, the order provides greater flexibility for digital disclosures, he said.

The National Association of Broadcasters expressed satisfaction with the change. “Today’s vote will help bring the licensing process for local radio and TV stations into the modern age,” said NAB Senior Vice President of Communications Ann Marie Cumming. “Local broadcasters appreciate the efforts of Chairman Pai and the FCC to modernize archaic rules and ease outdated regulatory burdens.”