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O'Rielly: FCC Can Improve Broadcasters Safety

Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly says that the FCC should "clarify" that now that TV stations are required to put their public files online, they don't have to give the public access to TV station premises, which he says could help protect their physical security in the wake of recent attacks on TV station personnel.

The FCC raised that issue in an item on the online public files last December, at O'Rielly's request, but the commissioner says there has not been much input and he suggested broadcasters could help flesh out that record with examples of "actual harms experienced by broadcast station personnel," as well as broadcasters' take on "whether broadcasters believe that their overall security could be improved if the Commission addressed this potential vulnerability."

"Given past attacks on station employees and the physical risks these individuals can face, it is all the more important that the Commission clarify our rules so that if any station makes its public inspection file available online – either as required by our rules or on its own initiative – it is no longer required to make its facilities or premises open to the public," O'Rielly blogged Tuesday. "This positive step will improve the safety of broadcast stations while enhancing public access to key records."

He says that given that station personnel are often very visible in the community, such exposure can lead to greater safety risks, including physical assaults "or worse."

The nation, and 24-hour news channels, were riveted to the story of a pair of Roanoke, Va., broadcast journalists who were murdered on-air last month by a disgruntled former co-worker.

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.