October 10, 2014 Deadline for Filing the Quarterly Listing of Programming Addressing Community Issues by Radio Stations

The FCC requires that within ten days after the end of each calendar quarter, every commercial and non-commercial AM and FM station must prepare and place in its local public inspection file a list of the programs that have provided the most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding three-month period. The listing is to provide a brief narrative statement that identifies those issues that were given significant treatment, and describes the programs in which the issues were addressed. Each program description must include, at a minimum, the date, timeand title of each program, and the duration of each responsive programming segment, and may include other information, such as identification of any guest appearing on the program. There is no FCC form on which this information is to be presented.

Several things should be kept in mind as you compile the quarterly issue-responsive programming list:

  • Care should be taken to list only those programs that actually represent the “most significant programming treatment of community issues.”
  • The FCC has indicated that licensees that document significant programming addressing five to ten community issues during each quarter are, as a general matter, likely to be able to demonstrate compliance with the issue-responsive programming obligation.
  • In the event that a station is required to demonstrate compliance with these FCC requirements, it will be permitted to rely only upon listed and unlisted programming that is supported by documentation prepared “reasonably contemporaneously” with the broadcast of the subject programming. The FCC will not consider “unsupported recollection.” As a consequence, all issue-responsive programming should be documented, even if it is not included in the quarterly listing.

Records pertaining to all unlisted programming should be kept separately from the station’s quarterly issue-responsive programming list and should not be placed in the public file. Additional supporting records (such as ascertainment methodology and results) relating to issue-responsive programming, although not required to be kept by a licensee, could be extremely useful in the event that questions are raised about the adequacy of the station’s performance. For this reason, we recommend that stations compile and maintain these types of supporting documents.

Each radio station is required to retain the issue-responsive programming lists in its public inspection file until the FCC’s final grant of the station’s next license renewal application (that is, until the grant of the renewal application filed at the end of the term during which the documents were placed in the file).

The maintenance of the issue-responsive programming lists throughout the license term (and beyond, if the subsequent renewal is delayed for any reason) is required under the Commission’s public inspection file rule. When a radio station licensee files its license renewal application with the FCC, the licensee must certify that it placed all required documents, including all quarterly reports, in its public inspection file on a timely basis. A licensee cannot truthfully make this certification if the station did not prepare an issue-responsive programming list for each quarter and place it in the public inspection file by the designated deadline. Fines of $10,000 and more have been assessed when a licensee admits in its renewal application that one or more required quarterly reports were not prepared and placed in the public file, as required, or that more than one report has been misplaced and is no longer available in the public file. Therefore, great care should be taken to ensure your station complies with this quarterly requirement.

Please call us if you have any questions about the creation or maintenance of this quarterly programming listing in the station’s public file.

Categories: Media