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FCC Working On Online Public File

Agency schedules another demo for Wednesday

The FCC is still putting the finishing touches on its online station public file interface.

That was evident from a public demo on Tuesday that had to be rescheduled for late afternoon due to audio problems when some 700 people tried to log on for the event.

The agency has developed a web interface to host the TV online public files; initially, the top four television networks in the top 50 Nielsen DMAs will begin to upload their files over a six-month period with the rest of the television industry to follow within two years.

FCC Chief Data Officer Greg Elin mentioned the commission has developed a Q&A about its new web interface; presumably that will be online prior to Aug. 2. Preview the application at: station and follow the login instructions.

The agency is also establishing a help line and instructional videos to help broadcasters prepare for the Aug. 2 deadline.

Some new points are apparent since the initial demo: The commission does not want stations to upload letters or emails from the public for privacy reasons. Those should remain at the stations and text directing the public where they can find this material will be part of each station’s online public file, according to Elin.

The FCC prefers that stations leave a document in its original electronic format, upload that, and let the commission worry about processing the document and converting that into a PDF, to prevent the spread of computer viruses. However, if users only have one version of a paper document, and it’s very old or long, it’s okay to scan it and send the document as a PDF to the FCC, according to Elin.

Many stations have questions concerning what documents to upload in order to show what the final price is for an advertising purchase; that’s for the political file. Some stations have been sending the commission their documents to test the new system and Elin said he’s seen checks with bank numbers, social security numbers, credit card numbers and other personal information. All of that can be redacted from the documents a station uploads to the FCC’s new system.

“I recommend against putting a scanned copy of a check in the online public file,” Elin said.

The commission planned to hold another demo Wednesday, Aug. 1 at noon Eastern and hoped to be able to archive that for its website.