May 22, 2018
The Federal Communications Commission has announced the next broadcast license renewal process will begin June 1, 2019. While it’s just a little more than one year away for the states first in line, the Media Bureau is advising stations to make good use of the time since this renewal cycle will be like no other. That’s because as of March 1 all stations have been required to have online public files. That new wrinkle means it will no longer take a visit to a station to uncover missing paperwork or other violations. Instead, Bureau staffers can review each station’s public inspection from their desks in Washington. And that’s a message that the FCC wants stations to receive loud and clear.
“Broadcasters may have noticed we’re looking closely at rule violations and non-compliance issues and I would encourage stations to start making sure their paperwork is in order and correct any non-compliance issues,” Audio Division chief Al Shuldiner said on a recent podcast produced by the National Association of Broadcasters.
The Federal Communications Commission began transitioning radio and television to online public files in 2012 with the first group of radio stations, which included commercial stations in the top 50 markets, required to make the move by June 2016. All other stations were required to make the digital leap by March 1, 2018 with all public file materials, with the exception of existing political file paperwork, placed in the online file.
Shuldiner acknowledged that the new online public files have made it easier for the FCC to catch public file problems, such as missing documents. “I think that might come out in the renewal process,” he said, adding, “I would hope stations would focus on these types of problems now while they have time so it doesn’t have an impact on renewals and we can make that as streamlined [a process] as possible.”
Broadcasters will have a better idea how the FCC intends to use its new resource when it processes renewal applications for stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia—the region that’s required to file the first set of renewals next June. After that new deadlines will be set for other states every other month for the following three years through August 2022.