• $10,000 Forfeiture Proposed For Failure to Make Public File Available
  • February 21, 2011
  • Law Firm: Lerman Senter PLLC - Washington Office
  • An FCC Enforcement Bureau regional field office has proposed a $10,000 forfeiture against non-commercial television Station KCET in Los Angeles for failing to provide sufficient access to its public inspection file.  In that decision, an FCC agent visited the station and asked to view its public inspection file on two consecutive days.  In both instances, a security guard informed the agent that he could not view the public file without an appointment (and in both instances the agent was told he could not speak with the station manager).  On a third visit, the agent was initially denied access to the station for failure to have an appointment; he was ultimately admitted only after he identified himself as an FCC agent.

    The Enforcement Bureau acknowledged that brief, security-related delays before providing access to the public file may be reasonable.  Indeed, the FCC recognizes that some stations may have legitimate security concerns which result in certain precautionary steps that temporarily delay visitor access to the public file (for example, having security personnel monitor visitors in potentially hostile situations).  However, a station may not condition access to the public file upon having an appointment, and, in general, must afford access to the public file throughout the full business day, despite the temporary absence of personnel for meals, business, or other appointments.

    Especially as the renewal process begins this year for radio and next year for television stations, this decision serves as a strong reminder that anyone who serves as a licensee’s initial point of contact when a member of the public asks to review the station’s public file must be trained to take the appropriate steps to provide access as required by the FCC’s rules.  Members of the public may not be denied access to the public file without an appointment and, while they may be asked to identify themselves by name, access cannot be conditioned upon the people seeking access disclosing whether they represent any particular group or entity, or the reason for their review of the public file.