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 page.

With minor exceptions, the Commission's Orders 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.

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 letters and emails from the public and existing political files that the stations elect to maintain in a computer database or electronic form.

Political File (consumers)

The Commission concluded that it could best ensure a smooth transition to the expanded online public file system if only larger cable systems were subject to the political file uploading requirement at the outset. In addition, this delay gives smaller cable systems with less resources more time to fully transition to the online public file. Cable systems with fewer than 1,000 subscribers are exempt from all online file requirements.

The Commission concluded that the burden on entities of uploading existing political files, particularly given the relatively short two-year retention period for political files, was not warranted. These 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

On June 24, 2016, cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers, DBS providers, SDARS licensees, and commercial radio stations in the top 50 Nielsen Audio radio markets with five or more full-time employees must begin uploading their new public inspection file documents in the Commission-hosted online public file database. In addition, these entities must place their existing public file documents into the online public file within six months after the effective date, or by December 24, 2016. Entities are not be required to place in the online public file existing political file material.

Cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers but fewer than 5,000 subscribers will not be 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. In addition, until March 1, 2018, all 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 all markets are exempt from all requirements to place public file materials in the online public file. As of March 1, 2018, these radio entities must have placed all existing public file material in the online public file, with the exception of existing political file material, and must begin placing all new public and political file material in the online file on a going-forward basis. Commercial broadcast licensees must continue to retain letters and emails from the public in the local public file and will not be permitted to upload those materials to the online public file.

Commencing on the June 24, 2016 effective date, television broadcasters, which have been subject to online file requirements since 2012, will also be required to use the new expanded online public inspection file (“OPIF”) rather than the existing online broadcast public inspection file (“BPIF”). The FCC will move all documents in BPIF to the OPIF database by midnight on June 24, 2016. BPIF will no longer be available starting June 24, 2016.

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.

Entity will 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 entities' 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 children's television quarterly reports filed in LMS).

  1. No entity ever has to upload political files that pre-date the date the entity is required to begin uploading their political files (June 24, 2016 for cable systems with 5,000 or more subscribers, DBS providers, SDARS licensees, and commercial radio stations in the top 50 Nielsen Audio radio markets with five or more full-time employees; March 1, 2018 for all other radio stations and cable systems with between 1,000 and 5,000 subscribers; TV stations should be fully transitioned). These files must remain available to the public, however, until the end of their two-year retention period. Entities may elect to retain existing political files in their local public file at the station or the local cable office or at the DBS provider's or satellite radio licensee's headquarter office. Alternatively, entities may choose voluntarily to place existing political files in the online file database.

  2. Commercial television and radio broadcasters must retain letters and emails received from the public in a local paper or electronic file and not upload these materials to the online file.

  3. Cable operators may choose to retain information regarding the location of the system's principal headend in the system's local public file rather than placing this information in the online file.

  4. 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.

Yes. 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. This option is not available to commercial broadcast licensees who must continue to retain a correspondence file that cannot be made available online for privacy reasons.

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 that are temporarily exempt from part or all online public file requirements may upload material to the online public file voluntarily before the delayed effective date of their online file requirement. For example, an NCE broadcast radio station that is not required to commence using the online file until March 1, 2018 may voluntarily commence using the online file prior to this date. Entities may also elect voluntarily to upload to the online file existing political file material that would otherwise be required to be retained in the entity's local public file until the end of the two-year retention period. To avoid any confusion regarding the location and completeness of the public and political file, any entity that voluntarily elects to commence using the online file early must ensure that the online file contains all new public file material on a going-forward basis, including all new political file material. That is, all new public and political file material must be uploaded to the online file on a going-forward basis commencing on the date the entity elects to transition to the online file. In addition, entities choosing to transition to the online filing system early may not switch back and forth between systems (local and online) after their election is made. Once an entity elects to use the online filing system, from that point forward it should upload all required public and political files on a going-forward basis in a timely manner and should continue to use the online system permanently.

Entities that have commenced using the online file database on a going-forward basis must indicate in their online file page that the file is available to the public.

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. This option is not available to commercial broadcast licensees who must continue to retain a correspondence file that cannot be made available online for privacy reasons.

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. To the extent entities 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, television stations completed their transition to the online file in 2014. Commercial radio stations in the top 50 markets with five or more full-time employees must commence uploading all new public and political file material to the online file on June 24, 2016. All other radio stations are exempt from online file requirements until March 1, 2018.

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.” 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.

DBS and satellite radio entities also must place this information in their political files and, commencing June 24, 2016, in their online political file.

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 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."