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Commissioner Highlights Safety Angle to Public File Changes

"Broadcast station employees can be particularly vulnerable to threats or actual harm, including physical assault or worse"

Broadcasters, Michael O’Rielly is concerned for your safety and security; and he’s speaking up about it.

“Given past attacks on station employees and the physical risks these individuals can face, it is all the more important that the commission clarify our rules so that if any station makes its public inspection file available online — either as required by our rules or on its own initiative — it is no longer required to make its facilities or premises open to the public.” So writes O’Rielly in a new blog post.

He says the recent move to require online public inspection files for most radio and TV stations “brings with it the opportunity to improve the physical security of broadcast stations. Simply put, once the public is able to view these documents online, there should be no need for public access to broadcast station premises.”

The commissioner noted that broadcasters often are real celebrities in their communities. “Unfortunately, the exposure and notoriety from such high-profile professions in today’s media-driven environment can lead to greater safety risk for station personnel. We all know there are some number of unstable individuals interacting in every society, and broadcast station employees can be particularly vulnerable to threats or actual harm, including physical assault or worse.”

O’Rielly, a Republican nominated in 2013 by President Obama, said the FCC’s longtime public file inspection requirement “clearly creates a potential weakness in broadcasters’ security efforts.” He said that during a visit to Alaska, he talked with broadcasters and learned of “repeated attempts by one individual to remove documents from a station’s public file with the hopes of catching the broadcaster out of compliance with FCC rules. Just imagine if that person refused to exit or pulled a knife when the station personnel prevented the malicious act.” He said he was disappointed there wasn’t more comment on this topic when it was raised in the recent notice of proposed rulemaking.

“It would be helpful to have a more fulsome record about the physical threats and actual harms experienced by broadcast station personnel. Similarly, it would be valuable to hear whether broadcasters believe that their overall security could be improved if the commission addressed this potential vulnerability.”

He called on the other commissioners to help to improve the safety and security of broadcasters and their employees “by reducing unnecessary access if or when any efforts to expand the online public file go live.”

The commissioner may raise this topic during his appearance here in Atlanta for the Radio Show later this week. He also has been vocal on the importance of not easing up on pirate radio enforcement.