FCC Approves TV Station Online Disclosure of FCC Filings

(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC has voted to allow broadcasters to substitute online disclosures of certain FCC applications--rather than having to make them on-air, in newspapers, or both--but with tweaks to the draft order that should please broadcasters concerned the FCC would clutter up their video apps.

Actually, the FCC voted all four of its agenda items before the May 13 public meeting--scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.--a meeting that was not expected to take more than a few minutes.

Currently, some stations, radio and TV, are required to provide written notices to a local newspapers, others to provide on-air notices and some to use both, with specific rules on "timing, frequency, duration, and content."

The FCC said that complexity has created compliance issues it wanted to resolve by streamlining the process, making it uniform, and allowing for online notification on a station's Web site.

According to FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly, changes were made to the draft proposal per his suggested edits--and along the lines requested by broadcasters--so that the online link to the FCC applications doesn't have to be at the top of the home page or on a station's app.

"Having already expressed suspicion on First Amendment grounds of a prescriptive formula specifying how stations must comply with notice rules, I was taken aback by suggestions by certain commenters that the Commission pinpoint exactly where on the web page the disclosures are to be posted," O'Rielly said after the vote. Broadcasters had pointed out that other links, to a stations public file or EEO info and contest disclosure rules, were generally at the bottom of the home page, which might make more sense for the application link as well.

"I thank the chairman for including my proposed edits that provide greater flexibility for digital disclosures, keeping the application notification rules in line with other disclosure obligations," said O'Rielly.

The FCC draft item had originally proposed that any station app had to include the application link, but broadcasters argued that the app mandate was an "unnecessary and burdensome" additional regulation (in an item meant to streamline the process), especially given what they called the "evolving nature" of station apps.

O'Rielly had called that mandate faulty and counterproductive. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.