• July 10, 2012 Deadline For Quarterly Listing Of Most Significant Treatment Of Community Issues By Radio Stations
  • June 20, 2012
  • Law Firm: Lerman Senter PLLC - Washington Office
  • The FCC requires that within ten days after the end of each calendar quarter, each commercial and non-commercial AM and FM station must prepare and place in its local public inspection file a list of the programs that have provided the most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding three-month period.  The list should include a brief narrative statement that identifies the issues that were given significant treatment, and describes the programs in which the issues were addressed.  The program descriptions must include, but are not limited to, the date, time and title of each program, and the duration of each responsive programming segment.

    You should keep in mind several things as you compile the quarterly issue-responsive programming list.  First, care should be taken to list only those programs that actually represent the “most significant programming treatment of community issues.”  Second, the FCC has indicated that licensees which document significant programming directed to five to ten community issues during each quarter are, as a general matter, likely to be able to demonstrate compliance with the issue-responsive programming obligation.  Third, in the event that a station is required to demonstrate compliance with the FCC requirements, it will be permitted to rely only upon listed and unlisted programming that is supported by documentation prepared “reasonably contemporaneously” with the subject programming.  The FCC will not consider “unsupported recollection.”  Thus, as described below, all issue-responsive programming should be documented even if it is not included in the quarterly listing.

    Records pertaining to all unlisted programming should be maintained separately from the station’s quarterly issue-responsive programming list and should not be placed in the public file.  Additional supporting records (such as ascertainment methodology and results) relating to issue-responsive programming, although not required to be kept by a licensee, could be extremely useful in the event that questions are raised about the adequacy of the station’s performance.  For this reason, we highly recommend that stations maintain such records.

    Each radio station is required to retain the issue-responsive programming lists in its public inspection file until the FCC’s final grant of the station’s next license renewal application (that is, until the grant of the renewal application filed at the end of the term during which the documents were placed in the file).

    The maintenance of the issue-responsive program lists throughout the license term (and beyond, if subsequent renewal is delayed for any reason) is required under the Commission’s public inspection file rule.  When a radio station licensee files its license renewal application with the FCC, the licensee must certify that it placed all required documents, including all quarterly reports, in its public inspection file on a timely basis.  A licensee cannot truthfully make this certification if the station did not prepare an issue-responsive programming list for each quarter and place it in the public inspection file by the designated deadline.  Fines of up to $10,000 have been assessed when a licensee admits in its renewal application that one or more required quarterly reports were not prepared and placed in the public file, as required, or that one or more reports have been misplaced and are no longer available in the public file. Therefore, great care should be taken to ensure your station complies with this quarterly requirement.