The FCC has made significant changes to its rules regarding the public notices that broadcasters must provide when they file certain applications with the FCC.
Commercial broadcasters are no longer required to publish notices of FCC filings in local newspapers. Instead, they must place an “FCC Applications” link on station website homepages or, if a station does not have a website, on the website of the station’s licensee or parent entity. If no such website exists, broadcasters must provide public notices on a locally-oriented website such as a community bulletin board or website operated by a local government. The “FCC Applications” link must be easy to see and can be in the same place on the homepage where links to other required FCC information – such as Public Inspection File and EEO reports – are found.
The “FCC Applications” link must direct users to a separate permanent webpage that contains the texts of any required public notices. The “FCC Applications” link and webpage must remain clearly visible and active even if a station does not have any currently pending FCC applications that are subject to the public notice requirement. A station that does not have any such applications must note that fact on its “FCC Applications” page by stating, for example, “There are no pending applications subject to the FCC’s public notice requirement.” The date the page was last updated must also be included.
Stations must post the text of any required public notices to its “FCC Applications” webpage within five business days of the date the FCC issues public notice accepting an application for filing. Once the required notice is posted, it must remain on the website for 30 consecutive days.
The FCC has simplified the text of required notices. The text now contains standardized language that applies regardless of the type of application that is filed.
Noncommercial broadcasters are generally exempt from the online public notice requirements, just as they were previously exempt from the newspaper publication requirements.
Commercial and noncommercial broadcasters must continue to provide on-air notices when they file certain FCC applications, but the timing and scripts of the announcements have been simplified and standardized.
Regardless of the type of FCC application filed, a broadcaster will now air six announcements during the four weeks that follow the filing of the application. The announcements can air any time between 7 AM and 11 PM on weekdays, as long as they are broadcast on six different days and at least one airs each week during the four-week period. The announcements must begin within five business days of when the FCC issues public notice of acceptance of the filing. If a station broadcasts primarily in a foreign language, the announcement should be made in that language. Pre-filing announcements for license renewal applications are no longer required.
Radio or television stations that multicast are only required to air announcements on their primary program streams. For television, the on-air announcement must use visuals with the full text of the announcement when the information is being orally presented by the announcer.
Stations filing for license renewal are still required to upload to their public inspection files certifications that they have aired the required announcements, along with a list of the dates and times the announcements aired.
The Old Rules Still Apply in Some Instances
These new public notice requirements only apply to FCC applications filed on or after October 30, 2020. For applications filed before October 30, 2020, including license renewal applications filed during the October 1 renewal cycle, broadcasters should follow the old public notice rules. License renewal applications filed as part of the December 1, 2020 cycle will be subject to the new public notice rules.
Regarding the new “FCC Applications” link and webpage, the FCC has stated that broadcasters “should act expeditiously to include the required link or tab, and the landing page to which it is linked, in a timely manner, but in no event later than when the licensee or applicant files an application requiring it to provide online notice.” Therefore, we recommend that broadcasters activate their “FCC Applications” links and webpages as soon as possible.
For more information about the FCC’s new public notice requirements, please contact any attorney in our office.