FCC steps forward on new disclosure rules


The proposal to move the public files of television stations to an FCC-hosted website was addressed at the last Open Meeting, and now a Notice of Inquiry is out seeking comment on the nuts and bolts of the proposal. Broadcasters who will be maintaining the files should definitely take a look and be prepared to offer their two cents to the Commission on the topic. Radio operators should pay attention, because their turn will come.

The NOI, on the matter of “Standardizing Program Reporting Requirements for Broadcast Licensees,” is ready for comment once it’s been published in the Federal Register, filed under MB Docket No. 11-189.

The FCC is looking to streamline the entire process while making the information stations are providing more easily accessible to interested parties. Additionally, the Commission is taking a hard look at just what types of information should be included.

For example, it is considering whether to allow representative program/issue lists that provide information on a portion of a license period rather than on a 24/7 basis, and seeks comment on how such a regimen should be constructed.

It asks about all kinds of things – what exactly is the definition of local news, and should the definition be flexible enough to account for coverage of local issues that may occur in station-produced variety/talk programs or in some other type of program. It wonders if there should be an option for licensees to comment on their programming in free form, and questions whether this option might actually prove to be a burden.

In looking to standardize reporting, one committee that worked on the topic came up with this list of categories: “local and national news programming, local and national public affairs programming, programming that meets the needs of underserved communities, programming that contributes to political discourse, other local programming that is not otherwise addressed in the form, and public service announcements.” An organization offering comments suggested some additions, including: “local civic programming, local electoral affairs programming, public service announcements, paid public service announcements, independently produced programming, local programming, underserved communities, and religious programming.”

The bottom line is that this is the sort of decision-making the FCC is seeking comment on. It even offers a sample of a possible form, available at the site of watchdog savethenews.org and available here.

The proposal also looks at the handling of closed captioning, emergency accessibility, possible non-commercial exemptions, other information gathered and cost-benefit.

Radio is mentioned as being a prime candidate for similar treatment. However, it is acknowledged that some particulars would likely have to be handled differently than they would be for television, and it is noted that a radio proceeding likely will not start until the television program is in place.

The entire NOI can be read here.