Consumers

General

A list of the files required to be in a media entity'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 Public Inspection Files page.

With few exceptions, the Commission's rules simply require that the public file that has historically been kept at the station, local cable office, or headquarter office be made available online at the Commission. The Commission has eliminated the requirement that commercial broadcast stations retain copes of letters and emails from the public in the public inspection file, as well as the requirement that cable operators maintain information regarding the designation and location of their principal headend in the file.

No, but stations must make a computer terminal available to members of the public so they can access any local public inspection files that are maintained electronically, such as existing political files that the stations elect to maintain in a computer database or electronic form.

Political File (consumers)

The Commission concluded that the burden on entities of uploading existing political files, particularly given the relatively short two-year retention period for these files, was not warranted. The files must be retained, however, in the entity's local public inspection file until their file retention period under the rules expires. Instead of retaining existing political files locally, entities also have the option to instead post their existing political file materials to the online file.

Search Features

Broadcasters, Cable Operators, DBS Providers, and Satellite Radio Licensees

Deadline to transition to the online public file

All TV broadcasters, DBS providers, commercial radio stations in the top 50 radio markets as defined by Nielsen audio (formerly Arbitron) that have 5 or more full-time employees, and cable systems with more than 5, 000 subscribers, should now have fully transitioned their public and political files to the online public file.

NCE radio broadcast stations, commercial radio broadcast stations in the top 50 Nielsen audio markets with fewer than five full-time employees, all commercial radio broadcast stations in markets below the top 50 or outside all markets, and cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers, but fewer than 5,000 subscribers, should now have all existing public file material in the online public file, with the exception of existing political file material, and have all new public and political file material in the online file on a going-forward basis as of March 1, 2018.

No entity is required to place in the online public file political file material already in existence at the time it transitions to the online file. Entities may, however, elect voluntarily to place these existing political files in the online file. Any political file materials not placed in the online public file must be retained in the local public file until the end of the two-year retention period.

Cable systems with fewer than 1,000 subscribers are exempt from all online filing requirements.

Logging In

There are two login screens for broadcasters at https://publicfiles.fcc.gov. The first, Owner 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. The second, Entity Sign In, accepts a facility and passcode to manage a single 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.

Entities receive their passcode from the individual responsible for the organization's FRN. There is a link on the Entity Sign In to switch to the Owner 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 Entity's facility ids and associated passcodes.

There are two login screens for cable operators at https://publicfiles.fcc.gov. The first, Owner Sign In, accepts a COALS ID and passcode to manage a cable operator's Public Inspection File. The second, Entity Sign In, allows the cable operator to log in using their PSID and passcode. There is a link on the Owner Sign In to switch to the Entity Sign In screen.

Contents

Entities must upload any required public file document that has not already been filed with the Commission. The Commission will upload to an entity's online public files any required documents that have been filed with the Commission in other contexts (such as broadcast station renewal, assignment and transfer applications and EEO reports filed by cable, DBS, and satellite television entities, filed in the Commission's Consolidated DataBase System (CDBS) or Licensing and Management System (LMS), or children's television quarterly reports filed in LMS.

  1. No entity is ever required to upload political files that pre-date the date the entity is required to begin uploading their political files.

    All entities now have fully transitioned to the online public file except for the following:

    Cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers but fewer than 5,000 subscribers were not required to place new political file material in the Commission's online file until March 1, 2018. Cable systems with fewer than 1,000 subscribers are exempt from all online filing requirements.

    NCE radio broadcast stations, commercial radio broadcast stations in the top 50 Nielsen audio markets with fewer than five full-time employees, and all commercial radio broadcast stations in markets below the top 50 or outside were exempt from all requirements to place public file materials in the online public file until March 1, 2018. As of this date, these radio entities were required to have placed all existing public file material in the online public file, with the exception of existing political file material, and were required to place all new public and political file material in the online file on a going-forward basis.

  2. 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 are not required to be placed in the online public file.

Entities 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 entity will be responsible for taking appropriate action to reflect these changes. The Commission has improved its online file database to permit entities to delete files and empty folders when documents in the file are past their retention period or the entity wishes to delete them for another reason. Entities are able to select one or more files and/or folders for deletion at one time, permitting them to efficiently remove documents from the online file.

Political File (broadcasters)

Yes. Entities may elect voluntarily to place their existing political files in the online file database. Entities that have fully transitioned to the online public file -- that is, entities that have uploaded all public file material to the FCC's online file database including all political file material required to be retained in the public file -- and that also provide online access to back-up political file material via the entity's own website when the FCC's online database is temporarily unavailable, will not be required to maintain a local public file.

Section 73.1212(e) of the Commission's rules requires all broadcast 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.

Section 76.1701(d) of the Commission's rules also requires cable systems to retain similar information 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.” DBS and satellite radio entities also must place this information in their political files.

To the extent entities place this material in their political file, which is common industry practice and satisfies the rule's disclosure requirement, they would be required to upload these files to the Commission's online public file on the same schedule as their political files.

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. Entities are able to add subfolders for local candidates and for additional candidates if the need arises.

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. Entities should note, however, that they are required to maintain an "orderly" file.

Files and Folders can be deleted. Documents and empty folders can be deleted by clicking the "trash can" icon next to the document/folder name. All the folders/files that can be deleted will have a "trash can" icon on the right side of the list. Only the system folders cannot be deleted.

No. There is no requirement that a political time buyer's payment check be placed in the file. To the extent an entity 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.

Other

All documents uploaded to the FCC's Broadcast Public Inspection Files system are scanned for viruses and then converted to PDF for public viewing. Ordinarily this process is completed in about 10 minutes. In the event files are pending conversion up to 24 hours, please do not try to re-upload these files, as that will lead to further delays. If the files are still pending after 24 hours have elapsed, please feel free to try again or contact us at 1-877-480-3201.

Yes, if an entity has a website, it must post a link to its Commission online public file on its own website's home page.

Entities 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 - entities are expected to upload the filing in that format unless they are technically unable to do so.

An entity 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. Entities can also fully purge a file from the system so that it no longer exists on the Commission's system, but this will require an Owner-based login.

Entities do not have to maintain a backup of their entire online public file. Because of its highly time-sensitive nature, however, entities 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. Entities may request a mirror copy of their public inspection file from the Commission's site.

The online system does not provide a single place, such as a banner or headline on a satellite broadcast 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 the 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 stations' 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."