Q: How do members of the public access the Commission-hosted online public inspection files of television broadcast stations?
A: Simply go to the Commission’s website at http://www.fcc.gov/public-inspection-file or https://stations.fcc.gov.
Q: What are the parts of the public inspection file?
A: A list of the files required to be in a station’s public file, a brief description of the file and the rule section or sections requiring each file to be in the public file can be found on the about page.
Q: Did the Commission’s recent order make any changes to what is required to be in a station’s public file? Did it change any retention periods?
A: No, the Commission made no such changes. Rather, the Commission’s order simply required that the public file that has historically been kept at the station be made available online at the Commission. There are some exceptions to this uploading requirement, however, which are described in the next FAQ below.
Q: Do these online filing requirements apply to cable or satellite video delivery systems?
A: Not at this time.
Q: Are radio stations required to or may they voluntarily upload public file documents to the Commission's online public file site?
A: Radio stations are neither required nor permitted to upload their public files to the Commission's online site at this time. After some experience with the system, the Commission may consider including radio stations in the online public file system, but at present the system is not designed to accommodate them.
Q: Are television stations required to make a computer available for the public to access the Commission-hosted public file at the local station?
A: No, but stations must make a computer terminal available to members of the public so they can access any local public inspection files, such as letters and emails from the public and pre-Aug 2, 2012 political files that the stations elect to maintain in a computer database or electronic form.
Politicial File (consumers)
Q: Why did the Commission limit the political file uploading requirement only to stations that are affiliated with the top four national networks (CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox) and that are located in the top 50 DMAs (Designated Market Areas)?
A: The Commission concluded that it could best ensure a smooth transition to the online public file system if only a subset of larger, network-affiliated stations were subject to the political file uploading requirement at the outset because this would impose the filing obligation on those stations with substantial political time experience and substantial resources and that would, therefore, be best able to address any unforeseen start-up difficulties, should they occur. On and after July 1, 2014, all television stations will be required to upload their political files to the Commission’s site.
Q: Why did the Commission not require stations to upload political file documents from before August 2, 2012?
A: The Commission concluded that the burden on television stations of uploading all pre-August 2, 2012 political files, particularly given the relatively short retention period for political files, was not warranted. These files must be retained, however, in the station’s local public inspection file until their file retention period under the rules expires.
Q: How can I keep up with new files placed in stations’ online public files?
A: We have recently added three new features to the broadcast public files site - Quick View, Search and RSS - that greatly expand its search and notification capabilities. This should help all users to more easily keep track of what’s new among the files being uploaded by stations.
- Quick View - this station-specific function shows a complete list of documents uploaded by a station sorted by date and time, with the newest documents appearing first. Once you get to a particular station, click the "Binoculars" icon in the station toolbar or go directly to a sorted list of a station’s files from your browser by entering the full address, as shown in the example below.
Files uploaded by WJLA-TV: https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/wjla-tv/document-uploads/
- Search - displays file names or folders matching a keyword or partial keyword on a particular station’s page. To use search, enter the keyword in the search field below the station logo or go directly to a list of files matching a particular word by entering full address, as shown in the example below.
Files matching "agree" at WCBS-TV: https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/wcbs-tv/find/agree
- RSS - the public can use an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader to be notified of new uploads in a broad variety of ways. This will provide a very powerful tool to customize notifications for users of public file postings in which they have an interest. Below are a few examples and some additional FAQs concerning this new capability.
Follow all files uploaded by KGTV: https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/kgtv/rss/
Follow Citizen Agreements from all stations: https://stations.fcc.gov/rss/feed-/citizen_agreements
Follow Presidential candidates from KDKA: https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/kdka-tv/rss/feed-/political_file/2012/federal/president
Q: Where is the RSS link?
A: The RSS link for all stations is: https://stations.fcc.gov/rss/. The RSS link for a particular station is: https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/[station call sign]/rss/ (for example, https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/wls-tv/rss).
Q: Can I track a particular folder?
A: Yes. All folder pages have 3 new feature icons next to the folder name. The binoculars will show you the list of uploaded files for that particular folder (and all subfolders). The red RSS icon will provide an RSS feed for that particular folder (and all subfolders) for 1 station only and the blue RSS icon will provide RSS feed for that particular folder (and all subfolders) across all stations.
Q: Can I subscribe to search?
A: Yes. On the search results page, you will find a red and blue rss icons next to the page title. The red icon will produce a link for that particular station and blue one for all stations. You can also add a keyword to the RSS feed, either for all stations or 1 station.
Files/folders matching "american" at All stations: https://stations.fcc.gov/rss/search-/american
Files/folders matching "american" at Station WTTG: https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/wttg/rss/search-/american
Q: Can I subscribe to political files only or to a specific race or candidate?
A: Yes. You can add a feed path to the RSS feed, either for all stations or 1 station. All folder pages have 3 new feature icons next to the folder name. If you click the red icon, you will generate an RSS feed link for that particular station. If you click the blue icon, you will generate an RSS feed link for all stations.
All Political Files, All Stations: https://stations.fcc.gov/rss/feed-/political_file/2012
All Political Files, WAGA-TV: https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/waga-tv/rss/feed-/political_file/2012
All Candidates for President, All Stations: https://stations.fcc.gov/rss/feed-/political_file/2012/federal/president
All Candidates for President, WAGA-TV: https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/waga-tv/rss/feed-/political_file/2012/federal/president
Ads for Barack Obama, All Stations: https://stations.fcc.gov/rss/feed-/political_file/2012/federal/president/barack_obama
Ads for Barack Obama, WAGA-TV: https://stations.fcc.gov/station-profile/waga-tv/rss/feed-/political_file/2012/federal/president/barack_obama
Q: How do television broadcasters access their station’s page so they canupload documents and review and edit their files?
A: There are two login screens for broadcasters at https://stationaccess.fcc.gov. The first, Facility Sign In, accepts a facility and passcode to manage a single station’s Public Inspection File. The second, FRN Sign In, allows the FRN holder to use their primary FRN and associated password to see their stations’ facility ids and associated passcodes and to track the history of each station’s Public Inspection File. There is a link on the Facility Sign In to switch to the FRN Sign In screen. Organizations with multiple FRNs may want to test their alternate FRN before contacting FCC for assistance.
Q: How does a television station acquire a passcode?
A: Stations will receive their passcode from the individual responsible for the organization’s FRN. There is a link on the Facility Sign In to switch to the FRN Sign In screen. The FRN holder can sign in with the organization’s primary FRN (e.g., filing FRN) and associated password to see their stations’ facility ids and associated passcodes.
Q: What assurance can the Commission provide that unauthorized people will be unable to access the “broadcaster side” of the public file (i.e., that part of the site where broadcasters upload and edit or remove documents from their online public file)?
A: The Commission’s security tools and safeguards, including passcodes, will prevent unauthorized access.
Q: Which documents will the Commission upload and which documents will the stations upload?
A: Stations must upload any required public file document that has not already been filed with the Commission. The Commission will upload to stations’ online public files any required documents that have been filed with the Commission in other contexts (such as renewal, assignment and transfer applications, filed in the Commission’s Consolidated DataBase System - CDBS).
Q: What public file documents have to be uploaded beginning on August 2, 2012?
A: With the exceptions noted here, all stations must upload their public inspection file documents to the Commission’s site on a going-forward basis starting on August 2, 2012 (that is, documents being placed in the public file on or after August 2, 2012, must be uploaded). Public file documents that are already in the local public file on August 2, 2012, must be uploaded to the Commission’s site sometime during the 6 months following August 2, 2012, but not later than Monday, February 4, 2013. Important exceptions to these general requirements include: (1) only stations affiliated with the top four national television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) and located in the top 50 Designated Market Areas (DMAs) must begin, on a going-forward basis, uploading documents to their online political file on August 2, 2012; (2) all other stations will keep their political file at their station and begin uploading, on a going-forward basis, their political files to the online file on July 1, 2014; (3) no station ever has to upload political files that pre-date the date the station is required to begin uploading their political files (August 2, 2012, for top four network/top 50 DMA stations and July 1, 2014, for all other stations); these files must remain available to the public at the station, however, until they are no longer required to be retained in the station’s political file; (4) letters and emails received from the public by a station should be retained in a local paper or electronic file and not uploaded to the online file; (5) materials related to a Commission investigation or complaint that have been expressly exempted by the Commission from the requirement to place them in the public file.
Q: If a station completes uploading those public files it is required to upload before the end of the six-month period for doing so, can it then stop maintaining the corresponding local public files?
A: Yes. Whenever a station’s public file upload is complete, those files that have now been made available online no longer need be maintained locally for public inspection. As noted elsewhere, however, there are some files that will always be maintained at the station and must remain available to the public.
Q: How will the Commission deal with documents that no longer must be maintained in the public file [e.g., because the retention period for a file has expired or a station has uploaded a corrected version of a document]?
A: Stations are responsible for maintaining their online public file. If a document has been replaced or a contract has expired or the rules no longer require that a particular document be part of the public file, the stations will be responsible for taking appropriate action to reflect these changes. The Commission will, however, work with broadcasters to develop, where feasible, technological solutions to some of these maintenance issues.
Q: When can stations begin to actually upload files to the online public inspection file site?
A: On August 2, 2012. The Commission, on that date, will post to its main website page an announcement as soon as the system is up and available for use.
Political File (broadcasters)
Q: May a television station not required to upload its political files until July 1, 2014, voluntarily upload its files to the Commission's website before that date?
A: Yes. These television stations may elect to switch to the online political file system before they are required to do so on July 1, 2014. Television stations making this election, however, should note that they are permitted to transition to the online filing system early, not to switch back and forth between systems (local and online) after their election is made or to selectively upload their political files. In short, once a television station elects to use the online filing system, from that point forward it should upload all required political files in a timely manner and should continue to use the online system permanently. At least for the first few weeks after the August 2, 2012 effective date of the online filing system, we would request television stations not currently required to post their political files to refrain from filing so that we may limit the universe of television stations using the system to those that are best equipped to deal with any unanticipated issues.
Q: Can a station voluntarily upload its pre-August 2, 2012 political files and stop affording access to them locally?
Q: How do television stations that are not required to begin uploading their political files until July 1, 2014 (stations outside the top 50 DMA markets and non-top four network affiliates in the top 50 DMA markets) comply with the politically related sponsorship identification requirements in Section 73.1212(e) of the Commission's Rules?
A: Section 73.1212(e) of the Commission’s rules requires all television stations to place in their public file a list of “the chief executive officers or members of the executive committee or board of directors”, as applicable, of any entity that has paid for or furnished television broadcast programming that is “political matter or matter involving the discussion of a controversial issue of public importance.” This additional sponsorship identification information must be kept by all broadcast stations in their public inspection file pursuant to Section 73.1212(e) of the FCC’s rules. To the extent stations place this material in their political file, which is common industry practice and which satisfies the rule’s disclosure requirement, they would be required to upload these files on the same schedule as their political files. As noted elsewhere, this schedule requires stations in the top 50 DMAs that are affiliated with the top four national television networks to begin uploading their political files on August 2, 2012, on a going-forward basis. All other stations will maintain their political files at their stations until July 1, 2014, when they will begin uploading these files to the online site on a going-forward basis.
Q: Will all the folders that the stations need to upload documents be on the Commission’s public file site?
A: Yes, there are folders for all components of the public file. The political file folder will contain subfolders for federal, state, and local candidates and for non-candidate issues. Stations are able to add subfolders for local candidates and for additional candidates if the need arises.
Q: What file naming conventions are required for documents uploaded to the public file site?
A: As noted above, the Commission will populate the online public file with appropriately named folders, and to some extent sub-folders, but there is no requirement that individual files be named in any particular way. Stations should note, however, that they are required to maintain an “orderly” file.
Q: How does a station delete folders in the political file?
A: Only empty folders can be deleted. Documents and empty folders can be deleted by clicking the “trash can” icon next to the document/folder name. Once all documents and subfolders have been deleted, the station can delete the parent folder. Currently the only folders that cannot be deleted are the “Federal,” “State,” “Local,” and “Non-Candidate Issue Ads,” although stations are reminded of the requirement to maintain an orderly file by keeping documents pertaining to particular races and candidates sorted into well-named folders.
Q: Are stations required to place political time buyers' payment checks in the political file?
A: No. There is no requirement that a political time buyer’s payment check be placed in the file. To the extent a station does place a payment check in the file as a means of providing information required by the rules, it should be aware that this information could be provided in any other form that the station chooses. In any event, stations that do place checks in the online political file may want to consider redacting any customer account information before making the material available online.
Q: Is a station required to post a link on its website to the station’s public inspection file at the Commission?
A: Yes, if a station has website, it must post a link to its Commission online public file on its own website’s home page.
Q: Can more than one person at a station be on the Commission site for that station at the same time?
Q: What format will the stations use to upload their documents to the Commission’s online public file?
A: Stations must upload electronic documents in their existing or native format to the extent feasible. For example, if a required document already exists in a searchable format - such as the Microsoft Word .doc format or a non-copy protected text-searchable .pdf format for text filings, or native formats such as spreadsheets in Microsoft .xml format for non-text filings - broadcasters are expected to upload the filing in that format unless it is technically unable to do so.
Q: If a station mistakenly uploads an incorrect document or the wrong document to the online site, what can the station do about it?
A: A station may easily delete any document from its online public file so that it will no longer be viewable by members of the public accessing their file. Licensees will also have the ability to fully purge a file from the system so that it no longer exists on the Commission’s system, but this will require an FRN-based login.
Q: Is a station required to maintain a backup file of its online public inspection file?
A: Stations do not have to maintain a backup of their entire online public file. Because of its highly time-sensitive nature, however, stations are required to maintain an electronic backup of their political files and be able to make those files available to candidates and the public in the event the Commission’s file system becomes unavailable. The Commission will make available in the near future the ability for a station to directly mirror its public inspection file from the Commission’s site.
Q: How can a station update its logo?
A: Currently this is not possible, but that functionality will be added in the coming months.
Q: How can a station update the closed captioning contact?
A: The closed captioning contact is stored in the Video Programming Distributors (VPD) database. To update this information, a station needs to log into VPD database and replace the existing entry. Please make sure to remove any outdated entries for your station. After the VPD database has been updated, the change will be reflected in the online Public Inspection File the next day.
Q: Can satellite television stations simply cross-reference their parent stations’ online public inspection files and not upload the files separately?
A: The online system does not provide a single place, such as a banner or headline on a satellite station’s entry page, where all public file inquiries about a satellite station could be redirected to the parent station’s online public file. Moreover, under teh Commission’s rules, a separate public file must be maintained for each authorized station. We recognize, however, that many satellite stations’ public files might be duplicative of their parent stations’ files in many instances and it would be acceptable, on a folder-by-folder basis, for satellite stations to place a cross-reference in its public file folder directing the user to the corresponding folder in its parent.s online file where this is the case. Any such cross-reference should be clear and explicit as to where the relevant information may be found. We do not believe, however, that there should be many cases in which all of a satellite’s public files are identical to those of its parent station. While satellite stations often retransmit a large portion - and in some cases all - of their parent station’s programming, parent stations and their satellites are licensed to separate communities, and it is unlikely that these communities would have identical needs and interests that could be addressed in terms of applicability and significance by exactly the same broadcast programming. Accordingly, certain differences in the public file of a satellite and its parent would likely occur, particularly in the stations’ issues/programs lists, which are intended to reflect each station’s "programs that have provided the most significant treatment of [its] community issues." (emphasis added).