The Federal Communications Commission’s new online system for hosting television broadcasters’ public inspection files has now been live for two full weeks. The system officially launched August 2, which means stations are required to upload most categories of public file documents created from that day forward and to finish uploading most older public-file documents by February 2, 2013. 

This does not include letters and e-mails from the public, which stations will not upload but instead will continue to make available at their main studios. 

Most stations also do yet need to use the online political file. Only stations that are both (1) affiliated with ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox, and (2) located in one of the top 50 DMAs were required to start using the online political file for documents created on or after August 2. Those stations will not have to upload any documents created before August 2, even if the documents relate to ads that run later.  Instead, older political-file documents will remain available at the stations’ main studios. Stations that have switched to the online political file need to keep a backup copy of the political-file documents they have uploaded. (Stations are not required to keep backup copies of non-political documents that have been uploaded.)

Other stations may keep their political files in their existing format until July 1, 2014. Those stations are allowed to switch to the online political file earlier, but the FCC staff has requested that stations hold off on making such voluntary switches for the first few weeks of the system’s operation.

Additional Tips

  • File formats: Documents originally created in a common electronic format — such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, non-copy protected text-searchable PDFs, and webpages (.htm or .html) — must be uploaded in that format if the station still has the electronic version of the document. This means stations may want to check that any electronic documents they upload are final versions, without hidden information (such as tracked changed or comments) that is not intended for public release.
  • Staff guidance: The public-file system’s FAQ page offers the FCC staff’s guidance on a number of technical and substantive questions, and the staff has updated this page several times since the system launched. The FCC also has posted videos on its Help page explaining several features of the system.
  • Getting more help: Some stations have had trouble uploading documents or have found that some documents were not displaying properly. Stations can report these types of issues using the FCC’s telephone and e-mail help systems. The staff has said stations also can use these systems to submit substantive questions about public-file requirements.