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FCC Easing Station Renewal Backlog

Indecency complaint disposals clear way for hundreds of license renewals

The FCC is getting a handle on its station paperwork backlog.

Diane Cornell, special council in the chairman’s office, states that the Enforcement Bureau has largely completed its review of pending complaints, clearing the way for the Media Bureau to grant almost 700 license renewals this week. It’s unclear at this point how many are for radio, and for TV and exactly which stations are affected.

Backlogs generally develop, she explains “because of (1) increased volume of work; (2) complex issues; (3) inter-related issues; and/or (4) need for coordination with others.”

Pillsbury attorney Scott Flick surmises many of the pending complaints were probably indecency-related, which can hold up a station’s renewal application for years. Just two years ago, the number of indecency complaints pending at the FCC exceeded 1,500,000, dropping to around 500,000 in April of 2013, when the agency decided to focus on the most egregious cases.

“While indecency and other complaints will certainly continue to arrive at the FCC in large numbers given the ease of filing them in the Internet age, today’s news brings hope that most of them will be addressed quickly, and that long-pending license renewal applications will become a rarity at the FCC,” according to Flick, who says for years, complaints that used the word “indecency” were put in that stack, resulting in multiyear holds on that station’s commission applications.

In order to get the agency to speed up its paperwork processing, Cornell says the commission implemented a “consent agenda” process, which enables commissioners to vote as a group of items at its monthly meetings, without staff presentations. Individual bureaus are working on streamlining efforts as well.