Last week the FCC reported that it has entered into consent decrees with six of the largest radio groups in the country. The issue is placing orders in your political file in a timely manner.
Political File is Required: The Communications Act requires broadcast stations to keep records of requests to purchase political advertising time made “(1) by or on behalf of a legally qualified candidate for public office; or (2) by third parties whose ads communicate a message relating to “a political matter of national importance.”
Stations Must Update Records Immediately Upon Purchase of Political Time: Under the Communications Act stations are required to upload such records to their online political files “as soon as possible.” The FCC has defined this as “immediately absent unusual circumstances.” In short you must upload on the day the time is purchased.
The FCC Will Check Your Political File: All political files are now on-line. This means the FCC has the ability to check your political file any time it wants. Rest assured it will check your political file before the next renewal period.
You will be Fined or Worse: The FCC is very serious about its political file rules. It has the means and ability to check everything you do including the time you upload your political file material. These consent decrees are a warning. Stations that fail to keep their political files updated on a daily basis will be fined or perhaps short term renewals.
What to do if you are not up to date: It is possible that a number of stations have not kept their file up to date. Consult with your FCC attorney and address this issue immediately. Also, when it comes time for renewal, there will be a question on the renewal form whether the station has been in compliance with all FCC rules during the license term. Remember the FCC can tell when you uploaded your political file materials. So if you have not been uploading in a timely manner, you should not answer “yes” to that question. The FCC can easily determine if you were current with your political file. If you answer “yes” and the Commission finds out you have not been up to date with your political file, that answer may be construed as a misrepresentation to the FCC. You could be in serious trouble. So call you FCC attorney address this issue now!!
Best practical advice: Assign a person at your station to go through the political file and make sure it is updated immediately after every purchase of political time.
For a good article discussing this issue see the article written by Atty John Garziglia in Radio Ink by clicking HERE.
From more information from our friends at the law firm of Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw Pittman LLP click HERE.
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