public file

Problems Implementing Public Files Online

Today, the New York Times reported that the FCC is following it'd due diligence by fining broadcasters without properly kept public inspections files, by delivering justice to the Columbia University radio station seven years late. NYT's Ben Sisario reported "WKCR, the radio station of Columbia University, has been fined $10,000 by the Federal Communications Commission over a lapse in its record-keeping from 1998 to 2005." The Times also sourced David Oxenford, a lawyer familiar with this area. “There are some big station owners who get hit with these fines,” he said, “but by and large,

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the bulk of these are small stations that have small staffs, and this obligation just gets overlooked.” Last Friday, Honolulu's Civil Beat took the public file inspection to task with this report, where the intrepid reporters visited stations and obtained the files. They're 'intrepid' because getting these files isn't always so simple, as some Cleveland-area college students recently found out. While the FCC recently mandated broadcasters in the top 50 markets to make the public files data available online, Honolulu is just outside of the top 50. CB reporters share sympathies with ProPublica's similar effort on the issue called 'Free the Files.' Daniel Victor and Justin Elliot are covering this issue, and have recently noted that formatting problems won't allow the public file data to be easily searchable. It seems like the FCC is headed in the right direction on this, but at the moment they're a just a few steps behind the times.

FCC Uses 'Common Sense,' Approves Plan for Online Database of Political TV Ads

Just as the sun was rising in Hawaii, Brian Stelter of The New York Times, broke the news with his report. The FCC has approved a plan for broadcasters to upload public files data to the web.

The information about ad sales is already contained in so-called public files, which stations are required to store at their offices. Moving the files online was described by the commission’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, as a “common sense” step toward transparency.

This is considered a victory to many such as FreePress, ProPublica, and former FCC researcher Steven Waldman. Though, as Stelter reported, there is still some dissent from the National Broadcast Association. They said,

“By forcing broadcasters to be the only medium to disclose on the Internet our political advertising rates, the F.C.C. jeopardizes the competitive standing of stations that provide local news, entertainment, sports and lifesaving weather information free of charge to tens of millions of Americans daily.”

Keep an eye on the FCC.gov page for updates on when the information will go live.