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FCC Demos Online Station Public Inspection File

Officials already have their sights set on radio

The FCC demonstrated a beta version of its online station public file interface, and officials confirmed to Radio World that personnel are already thinking ahead about the version they intend to create for radio.

The commission is proceeding with its plans, regardless of NAB’s request for a stay pending judicial review at a federal appeals court.

Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake said the whole point of the change is to make the station’s public files easier for the public and the industry to access and use, moving away from an “antiquated hard-copy filing system to Internet-based filing systems.”

Moving files out of station’s basement filing cabinets “is a common-sense first step,” said Lake.

Demonstrating a beta version of the Web interface that TV stations would upload their files to, FCC Chief Data Officer Greg Elin ticked off what the agency believes are improvements to its current online database used for other filings.

Each station would have a profile page, and Elin says with the new interface it will take users fewer clicks to find documents than it does now. By Aug. 2, TV stations in the largest markets must begin posting new documents for their public file to the commission-hosted online website.

The site will be able to handle several file formats such as PDF, text, Word docs or HTML. In the past, station personnel, or their attorneys, have needed to break-up large files to electronically send them to the commission. Asked by one of the about 30 attendees what the file size limit would be, Elin said between 10–15 megabytes.

Asked by Radio World what would prevent a system crash on the deadline when several stations would be uploading files at once, he replied that there will be a 2,000 station cap for how many can file simultaneously. Additionally, “If we have a high spike with the public,” the agency can use caching and redundancy in the cloud to handle the volume, he added.

Officials haven’t said exactly when they intend to require radio stations to move their public files online. They want to work out the bugs first with the TV station version.

Fletcher Heald & Hildreth attorney Peter Tannenwald attended the meeting and said though he opposes the concept of stations putting their public files online to an FCC site in general, the demo made the process look “usable.”

NAB and stations have protested the concept, citing the burden for stations. They especially don’t like the idea of placing their political files — including the price of a political ad buy — online, arguing that the price information places TV stations at a disadvantage because their competitors, like cable and satellite, don’t need to.

Tannenwald believes the concept of converting from paper to online public files could prove to be a “mess” for radio because those stations have much smaller staffs than TV stations. Attorney Michael Richards believes the process will be a “challenge to implement so an important community-based source of local media is not further stressed by the already tough operating conditions in the modern media environment.”

The FCC hopes to make the interface public soon, and plans to post instructional videos to its website that would detail exactly how to upload files.