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FCC Looks to Toss Paper Contract Filing Rules

Seen as outdated and superfluous in digital era, Clyburn disagrees

This time, it’s paper contract rules that are on the chopping block.

Another piece of the initiative to modernize media regulation rules came in the form of a chop to rules that require broadcasters to file paper copies of station contracts and related documents with the Federal Communications Commission.

Since the late 1930s, the commission has required broadcasters to submit copies of certain contracts and documents that relate to ownership and operation of broadcast stations to the FCC. As it stands today, stations either must mail or hand deliver paper copies of those documents to the commission, which are then made available to the public.

The proposed rulemaking being considered would eliminate that paper route altogether. Instead, broadcasters would have to ensure that the public can access copies of these documents through the station’s own public file or by providing a copy to anyone who requests it within seven days.

For international broadcast stations without such public file obligations, the notice allows them to stop automatically filing paper documents with the FCC, and instead require them to submit a document upon request.

The item is up for debate at the FCC’s February meeting.

This is the fifth rulemaking stemming from the commission’s Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative, whose stated goal is to reduce what the commission has called unnecessary regulation.

“I believe our agency must not forget those who do not have regular access to the internet,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in a statement when the rulemaking was announced. “In the case of the documents required under [this section of the FCC Rules], I believe the existing public file rules can adequately inform the public,” he said.

While she said she looks forward to reviewing any public comments that follow “to ultimately ensure there are no negative consequences to the public’s right to transparency,” so far, the docket is empty: No one has yet made their opinions known about the issue on the FCC’s ECFS database.

What say you on the issue? Comments can be made here using Docket 18-4.