REMINDER: All TV Stations Will be Required to Post Political File Materials to Online FCC Public File Starting July 1, 2014

Starting July 1, 2014, all full-power and Class A television stations must upload to the FCC’s online public inspection files all material required to be placed in their political files. Only NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox affiliates in the top 50 Nielsen markets are currently required to post political materials to their FCC online public file. The obligation that all other TV stations, regardless of affiliation or market size, begin to post these materials is forward looking only. Stations that begin to post political file material online on July 1, 2014 will not be required to upload any political documents generated prior to that date; however, the contents of the existing paper political files of these stations must be maintained at their studio or other designated location and continue to be made available for inspection upon request by candidates, their representatives, other political time buyers, and any member of the public until the end of the regular two-year retention period specified by the FCC’s rules.

The requirement that all TV stations post their new political file material to their FCC online site does not change the scope of the documents that a station is required to keep in its political file. As with the paper political files, television stations are expected to place documents in their online political file “immediately,” absent unusual circumstances, and all documents must remain posted 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 class of time purchased and the rate charged) and/or availabilities within a specific schedule of time. A station must subsequently upload relevant reconciliation information regarding an order, including the times spots actually aired and information regarding any “make goods” provided for preempted time, rebates, or credits issued. Also required to be posted is the detailed documentation – including disclosure of the rate charged – with respect to paid political “issue” programming that “communicates a message relating to any political matter of national importance,” such as programming that makes a reference to a legally qualified candidate, any election for Federal office, or a national legislative issue of public importance.

Each station is also required to maintain a local electronic backup of the materials posted to its online political file. If the FCC’s online file becomes inaccessible, the backup copy of the political public file kept at the main studio or other location must be made available to candidates, their representatives, and other members of the public upon request.

If you have any questions regarding the new online political file obligations or any other aspect of the FCC’s electronic public inspection file requirements, please contact any attorney in our office.

Categories: Media