FCC Waives Internet Reporting for Some Stations with Deferred Renewals

Recognizes Burden of Issues List Reporting for Stations with Deferrals Unrelated to Programs/Issues Complaints
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Just in time, the FCC says it won't require TV stations to post historic programs/issues lists to the FCC's website if their license renewal has been held up for reasons other than those relating to those programs or issues. The deadline for converting from paper to online files is Feb. 4, 2013.

In April 2012, the FCC voted to require TV stations to post their public files to the FCC's site so that the public could more closely monitor their public interest performance. Among those files is a quarterly list of the programming responsive to community needs.

The rule states that the stations must post all lists "until final action has been taken on the station's next license renewal application." For those whose renewals have not been deferred, however, that would be the eight-year license term, but for those with deferrals -- and there are hundreds of them, says the National Association of Broadcasters -- it could extend for as many as 16 years, as was the case with KTSB Shreveport, La.

In granting a waiver to KTSB from that 16-year requirement, the FCC said it was doing to because requiring 16 years' worth of info dating back to the previous cycle could confuse the public -- although the station promised to continue to make that info available in paper form at the station and the FCC made that part of the waiver. The commission said it also recognized making the station send it info back to 1997 was a burden.

"Having KTBS keep the 1997-2005 issues/programs lists available at the station is a reasonable alternative to posting online, alleviating the risk of confusion that could arise from posting the prior renewal cycle lists, while also providing the public access to this material," the Media Bureau said.

The FCC also said it would also grant waivers to other similarly-situated stations, though they would also have to make sure the info was available on paper at the station until final action on the license renewal. The FCC defined similarly situated thusly: "[A] station's prior renewal application must have been: 1) unopposed by any member of the public, and 2) deferred due to enforcement matters unrelated to the station's obligation to air programming responsive to the needs and interests of its community or the recordkeeping related thereto."