About Public Inspection Files


For decades, the public file for each broadcast station has been kept at the station’s main studio in paper form (or more recently in electronic form at some stations) and made available during normal business hours. The public file for each cable system has been kept at an office in the community served by the system, while the DBS and SDARS files have been maintained at the entity’s headquarters office. Relying on the advantages of current technology, however, the Commission has now changed its rules to require almost all of this public file information for broadcast stations, cable systems, DBS providers, and SDARS licensees to be posted online at this site. As a result, members of the public will be able to find information regarding individual stations, cable systems, and DBS and SDARS entities more easily and at any time convenient to them.

Each entity’s public file currently includes both items that have to be filed with the Commission and items that are only available in the local public file retained at the station, cable system, or DBS or SDARS headquarters office. After the online public file transition is complete, virtually all of these items will be gathered together and made available here. The items required to be in the public file, the rule section requiring each item to be placed in the file, and the retention period for each item, are listed below. A short, plain-language description of each item is also provided, but is included for convenience and should not be relied upon in place of the underlying rules’ description of the item. The text of the public file rule section requiring each item to be placed in the file can be displayed by clicking on it. Exceptions to the online filing requirement for any of the below-listed public file items, if applicable, are noted in the description of the relevant item.


Broadcast Station Public Inspection Files

  • FCC Authorizations (as required by 73.3526(e)(1), 73.3527(e)(1)) (retain until replaced). These are the instruments issued by the Commission to individuals or companies that authorize broadcasting or other use of radio transmissions in connection with broadcasting and include licenses and permits to construct or modify broadcast facilities.
  • Applications and related materials (as required by 73.3526(e) (2), 73.3527(e) (2)) (retain until final action taken on the application). These are applications and supporting documents or exhibits submitted to the Commission seeking such things as broadcast licenses, construction permits, special operating authority, or consent to the sale of an existing broadcast facility.
  • Contour Maps (as required by 73.3526(e)(4), 73.3527(e)(3)) (retain as long as they reflect current, accurate information regarding the station). These are graphical representations or "maps” of the area in which a broadcast station provides a particular level of signal strength over-the-air. They are useful, but general, indications of where service might be expected to be received from the station. They do not account, however, for the availability of a station’s signal carried by cable or satellite service providers, nor do they suggest that every point inside the contour will receive over-the-air service.
  • Ownership reports and related materials (as required by 73.3526(e)(5), 73.3527(e)(4)) (retain until a new, complete ownership report is filed with the FCC). These reports are filed every other year and in connection with the sale of a broadcast station and reflect what entities and individuals hold "attributable” interests in a broadcast station (that is, interests the Commission deems convey some influence over the station).
  • Equal Employment Opportunity file (as required by 73.3526(e)(7), 73.3527(e)(6)) (retain until final action taken on the station's next license renewal application). The Commission requires stations employing five or more full-time employees to maintain in their public inspection file the following reports regarding their EEO activities: an EEO public file report that is prepared annually; FCC Form 396 – an EEO Program Report that is filed with the FCC as part of the station’s license renewal application; FCC Form 397 – an EEO Mid-term Report that is filed with the FCC at the mid-point of a license term; and, for buyers of a station or new licensees, FCC Form 396-A – a Model EEO Program Report that is filed with the FCC.
  • The Public and Broadcasting manual (as required by 73.3526(e)(8), 73.3527(e)(7)) (retain most recent version indefinitely). This pamphlet, written by the Commission, is intended to explain in understandable terms the various aspects and purposes of broadcast service, the Commission’s regulation of it, broadcasters’ obligations, and how the public can participate in the Commission’s licensing and other administrative processes involving their local broadcast stations.
  • Children's television programming reports (FCC Form 398) (as required by 73.3526(e)(11)(iii)) (retain until final action taken on the station's next license renewal application). Commercial television stations must prepare and place in their public inspection files a report (Form 398) each calendar quarter that identifies the educational and informational programming for children that they aired.
  • DTV transition education reports (FCC Form 388) (as required by 73.3526(e)(11)(iv), 73.3527(e)(13)) (retain for one year after last filed). This form reports efforts by television stations to inform their audiences on the stations’ progress in making the transition to full digital service. Because virtually all such stations required to do so have fully converted to digital mode, this form is only relevant to a very small number of stations and will soon become obsolete.
  • Citizen agreements (as required by 73.3526(e)(3)) (retain for term of agreement). These are agreements between citizens’ groups and broadcast stations that are entered primarily for noncommercial purposes and that deal directly or indirectly with the stations’ broadcast service to their communities. Not all stations will have such agreements, but if they do, they must be in the public file.
  • Political file (as required by 73.3526(e)(6), 73.3527(e)(5)) (retain for two years). This file must contain all requests for specific schedules of advertising time by candidates and certain issue advertisers, as well as the final dispositions or "deals" agreed to by the broadcaster and the advertiser in response to any requests. It is not necessary to retain any of the materials relating to the negotiation between the parties to reach the disposition. Finally, the file must include the reconciliation of the deal such as a description of when advertising actually aired, advertising preempted, and the timing of any make-goods of preempted time, as well as credits or rebates provided the advertiser. The request and disposition must be placed in the file as soon as possible, which the Commission has determined is immediately absent extraordinary circumstances. The reconciliation information need not be placed in the file immediately but the broadcaster must identify a person or persons at the station capable of informing an advertiser of the details of any reconciliation information.
    • All television stations have transitioned their political file material to the online file as of July 1, 2014.
    • Commercial radio stations in the top 50 radio markets as defined by Nielsen Audio (formerly Arbitron) that have 5 or more full-time employees must begin uploading their public and political files on June 24, 2016. All other radio stations are exempt from online filing until March 1, 2018, when they will begin uploading new public and political files to the online site on a going-forward basis. On that date, these stations must also have uploaded to the online file all existing public file material, with the exception of existing political files which stations are permitted, but not required, to upload to the online public file. Existing political files must be retained, either in the local public file or in the Commission’s online public file, until the end of the retention period.
  • Letters and e-mails from the public (as required by 73.3526(e)(9)) (retain three years from receipt). These are written or email comments or suggestions received by stations from the public that concern the operation of the station. Largely for privacy reasons, these will be retained at the stations in either paper or electronic form and will not be made available online.
  • Material relating to FCC investigations and complaints (as required by 73.3526(e)(10), 73.3527(e)(11)) (retain until notified in writing that the material may be discarded). This is material that has a substantial bearing on an FCC investigation or complaint to the FCC involving the station and of which the station is aware. Some or all of the material in this category may be excluded from the public file at the Commission’s direction (for example, Letters of Inquiry from the Enforcement Bureau should be excluded in order to protect the investigation process).
  • Issues/Programs lists (as required by 73.3526(e)(11)(i), 73.3527(e)(8)) (retain until final action taken on the station’s next license renewal application). These are quarterly lists prepared by stations of programs they aired during the preceding quarter that provided the stations’ most significant treatment of community issues.
  • Donor lists for non-commercial educational channels ("NCEs") (as required by 73.3527(e)(9)) (retain for two years from the date of the broadcast of the specific program reported). These are lists of donors that have supported specific programs aired by the stations.
  • Records concerning children's programming commercial limits (as required by 73.3526(e)(11)(ii)) (retain until final action taken on the station's next license renewal application). These are records that substantiate commercial television stations’ compliance with the Children’s Television Act of 1990 and the FCC’s rules that limit the type and amount of advertising during TV programming that is directed to children 12 and under.
  • Local public notice certifications and announcements (as required by 73.3526(e)(13), 73.3527(e)(10)) (retain for as long as the application to which it refers). These are certifications that the full-service broadcast station has made the necessary public on-air announcements when it files an application with the FCC for renewal of its broadcast license.
  • Time brokerage agreements (as required by 73.3526(e)(14)) (retain for as long as contract or agreement in force). These are contracts or agreements that allow one or more parties other than the station’s owner to provide programming, sell advertising time in the brokered programming and, in some cases, operate the station on a day-to-day basis. These agreements are sometimes referred to as Local Marketing Agreements or LMAs. Confidential or proprietary information, may be redacted from these documents.
  • Must-Carry or retransmission consent elections (for commercial television stations) or must-carry requests (noncommercial television stations) (as required by 73.3526(e)(15), 73.3527(e)(12)) (retain for duration of election or request period). These are statements of a station’s election to be carried on multichannel video program distributor (MVPD) systems, such as cable systems or direct broadcast satellite services, either by negotiated retransmission consent agreements or by mandatory carriage under the Commission’s rules.
  • Joint sales agreements (as required by 73.3526(e)(16)) (retain for as long as contract or agreement in force). These are contracts or agreements that allow one or more parties other than the station’s owner to sell advertising time on the station. Confidential or proprietary information may be redacted from these documents.
  • Class A TV continuing eligibility documentation (as required by 73.3526(e)(17)) (retain indefinitely). These are documents that substantiate the continuing eligibility of a low-power television station for Class A status, which affords the station the same interference protection as a full power television station. To retain Class A status, the station must broadcast at least 18 hours per day, and air at least three hours per week of locally produced programming.
  • Sponsorship Identification - Political Matter and Controversial Issues of Public Importance (as required by 73.1212(e)) (retain for two years). This file contains 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 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, all television stations have transitioned their political file material to the online file as of July 1, 2014. Commercial radio stations in the top 50 radio markets as defined by Nielsen Audio (formerly Arbitron) that have 5 or more full-time employees must begin uploading their public and political files on June 24, 2016. All other radio stations are exempt from online filing until March 1, 2018, when they will begin uploading new public and political files to the online site on a going-forward basis. On that date, these stations must also have uploaded to the online file all existing public file material, with the exception of existing political files which stations are permitted, but not required, to upload to the online public file. Existing political files must be retained, either in the local public file or in the Commission’s online public file, until the end of the retention period.



Cable system public inspection files

  • Political file (as required by 76.1701) (retain for two years). This file must contain all requests for specific schedules of advertising time by candidates and certain issue advertisers, as well as the final dispositions or "deals” agreed to by the cable system and the advertiser in response to any requests. It is not necessary to retain any of the materials relating to the negotiation between the parties to reach the disposition. The file must also include the reconciliation of the deal such as a description of when advertising actually aired, advertising preempted, and the timing of any make-goods of preempted time, as well as credits or rebates provided the advertiser. The request and disposition must be placed in the file as soon as possible, which the Commission has determined is immediately absent extraordinary circumstances. The reconciliation information need not be placed in the file immediately but the broadcaster must identify a person or persons at the station capable of informing an advertiser of the details of any reconciliation information. Section 76.1701(d) of the Commission’s rules also requires cable systems to retain in their political 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.” Cable systems with 5,000 or more subscribers must commence uploading political file material on a going-forward basis commencing June 24, 2016. Cable systems with 1,000 or more but fewer than 5,000 subscribers must commence uploading political file material on March 1, 2018. Cable systems with fewer than 1,000 subscribers are exempt from political and online file requirements.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity file (as required by 76.1702) (retain for five years). The Commission requires cable system employment units with six or more full-time employees to maintain in their public file the following reports regarding their EEO activities: an EEO public file report that is prepared annually; FCC Form 396C – an EEO Program Report that is prepared annually and filed with the FCC.
  • Commercial records on children’s programs (as required by 76.1703). These are records that substantiate cable systems’ compliance with the Children’s Television Act of 1990 and the FCC’s rules that limit the type and amount of advertising during programming that is directed to children 12 and under. These records must be maintained for a period sufficient to cover the limitations period specified in 47 U.S.C. § 503(b)(6)(B).
  • Performance tests (channels delivered) (as required by 76.1705). Cable operators must retain in the public file a current listing of the cable television channels which the system delivers to its subscribers. Cable operators may either upload information regarding their current channel lineup to the online file, and keep this information current, or provide a link in their online file to the channel lineup maintained by the operator.
  • Leased access (as required by 76.1707). If a cable operator adopts and enforces a written policy regarding indecent leased access programming, such a policy will be considered published if it is included in the public file.
  • Principal headend (as required by 76.1708). Cable systems must maintain in the public file the designation and location of the system’s principal headend.
  • Availability of signals (as required by 76.1709). Cable systems must maintain in the public file a list of all broadcast television stations carried in fulfillment of the must-carry requirements.
  • Operator interests in video programming (as required by 76.1710) (retain for three years). Cable operators must retain in the public file records regarding the nature and extent of their attributable interests in all video programming services and information regarding their carriage of such vertically integrated video programming services on cable systems in which they have an attributable interest.
  • Sponsorship identification (as required by 76.1715). Whenever cable systems omit sponsorship announcements pursuant to 76.1615(f), the system must retain in the public file information regarding the advertiser.
  • Compatibility with consumer electronics equipment (as required by 76.630). Cable systems must retain in the public file copies of requests for waiver of the prohibition on scrambling or encrypting signals carried on the basic service tier.
  • Geographic information. Cable operators, when first establishing their online public file, must provide a list of the five-digit ZIP codes served by the cable system. Cable operators with more than one physical system identifier ("PSID”) must identify the ZIP code(s) served by each PSID.
  • Cable employment units. Cable operators, when first establishing the online public file for each cable system, must identify the employment unit number or numbers associated with each system.



DBS Public Inspection Files

  • Political file (as required by 25.701(d)) (retain for two years). This file must contain all requests for specific schedules of advertising time by candidates and certain issue advertisers, as well as the final dispositions or "deals” agreed to by the cable system and the advertiser in response to any requests. It is not necessary to retain any of the materials relating to the negotiation between the parties to reach the disposition. Finally, the file must include the reconciliation of the deal such as a description of when advertising actually aired, advertising preempted, and the timing of any make-goods of preempted time, as well as credits or rebates provided the advertiser. The request and disposition must be placed in the file as soon as possible, which the Commission has determined is immediately absent extraordinary circumstances. The reconciliation information need not be placed in the file immediately but the broadcaster must identify a person or persons at the station capable of informing an advertiser of the details of any reconciliation information.
  • Commercial records on children’s programs (as required by 25.701(e)(3)). These are records that substantiate DBS providers’ compliance with the Children’s Television Act of 1990 and the FCC’s rules that limit the type and amount of advertising during programming that is directed to children 12 and under. These records must be maintained for a period sufficient to cover the limitations period specified in 47 U.S.C. § 503(b)(6)(B).
  • Equal Employment Opportunity file (as required by 25.601) The Commission requires DBS providers to maintain in their public file the following reports regarding their EEO activities: an EEO public file report prepared annually; FCC Form 396C – an EEO Program Report that is prepared annually and filed with the FCC.
  • Records regarding the noncommercial set-aside (as required by 25.701(f)(6)) (retain for two years). The Commission requires DBS providers to reserve four percent of their channel capacity for noncommercial programming. In connection with this requirement, DBS providers must retain records regarding their channel capacity, the entities to whom noncommercial capacity is being provided and the rates paid by these entities, and a record of entities requesting capacity and the disposition of those requests.



SDARS Public Inspection Files

  • Political file (as required by 25.702(b)) (retain for two years). This file must contain all requests for specific schedules of advertising time by candidates and certain issue advertisers, as well as the final dispositions or "deals” agreed to by the cable system and the advertiser in response to any requests. It is not necessary to retain any of the materials relating to the negotiation between the parties to reach the disposition. Finally, the file must include the reconciliation of the deal such as a description of when advertising actually aired, advertising preempted, and the timing of any make-goods of preempted time, as well as credits or rebates provided the advertiser. The request and disposition must be placed in the file as soon as possible, which the Commission has determined is immediately absent extraordinary circumstances. The reconciliation information need not be placed in the file immediately but the broadcaster must identify a person or persons at the station capable of informing an advertiser of the details of any reconciliation information.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity file (as required by 25.601 and 25.702(c)). The Commission requires SDARS licensees to maintain in their public file the following reports regarding their EEO activities: an EEO public file report prepared annually; FCC Form 396 – an EEO Program Report that is prepared annually and filed with the FCC; FCC Form 397 - – an EEO Mid-term Report that is filed with the FCC at the mid-point of a license term.
  • Records regarding the noncommercial set-aside (retain for two years). Sirius XM has made a voluntary commitment to make capacity available for noncommercial educational and informational programming. The Commission requires SiriusXM to retain records regarding its channel capacity, the entities to whom noncommercial capacity is being provided and the rates paid by these entities, and a record of entities requesting capacity and the disposition of those requests. These records must be retained for two years.