All Full-Power and Class A Television Stations Must Upload New Political File Material to FCC Online Public Files Beginning July 1, 2014

Currently, only stations affiliated with the four national broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) located in the top 50 Nielsen markets are required to post their political files to each station’s FCC-hosted online public inspection file.

However, beginning July 1, 2014, all full-power and Class A television stations will be required to upload their political files to the online public files. The obligation to post these materials is forward looking and stations will only have to post political documents from and after July 1, 2014. A station is not required to upload the contents of its existing paper political files to the online site, but they must keep the contents of these paper political files available for inspection at the main studio or other location of the public file until the end of the two-year retention period required by the FCC’s rules.

The requirement to post the political files to the FCC online site does not change the materials that stations are required to keep in their political files. As with the paper political file, television stations will continue to be expected to place documents in their electronic online political file “immediately” absent unusual circumstances, and the documents must remain in the file for the required two-year retention period. Information in the political file that must be posted immediately includes final orders by candidates for specific schedules of time (including classes of time purchased and rates charged) or availabilities within a specific schedule of time. Stations must also subsequently upload relevant reconciliation information about an order, including the times spots actually aired and details such as any “make goods” provided for preempted time, and rebates or credits issued. Note that general requests by candidates for advertising availability and rates for a general array of time need not be included in the political file.

As we reminded stations in our May 4, 2012 memo, when the online public file rules first went into effect, stations are required to maintain a local electronic backup of the political file. The FCC provides a tool to allow stations to make electronic copies of their online political file from the Commission-hosted site. If the FCC’s online file becomes inaccessible, a station must provide at the main studio or other location of the public file information pertaining to the political file to candidates, their representatives, other political time buyers, and any member of the public.

If you have any questions regarding the FCC’s online public inspection file requirements, please contact any attorney in our office.

Categories: Media