Common Frequency Advocates Transparency in FCC's "Public Notice" Rulemaking

Submitted by Todd Urick on Tue, 12/03/2019 - 19:08

FCC rules Section 73.3580 require broadcasters to give local "public notice" in newspapers when filing specific types of applications with the Commission.  This is enforced by Section 311(a) of the Communications Art.  Within the last three years the Commission has been in a deregulatory spree, engrossed with parsing every nook and cranny of regulation to find ways to modernize or reduce rules for broadcasters.  The FCC recently opened a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for MB Docket No. 17-264 with the intention of updating broadcaster local public notice rules.    

The FCC, here, proposes eliminating pubic notices announcements in printed newspapers because newspapers are outdated.  The rulemaking proposes migrating those announcements to the station's (applicant's) website.  While Common Frequency agrees that news consumption is migrating to online sources, and changes of technology beckon adapted forms of public notice, public notice rules should not be diluted.  The proposed rules simply propose a broadcaster to post the announcement on their website instead of a newspaper.  Although Common Frequency agrees that internet posting of public notices is more pertinent in this day and age, the details of any proposed implementation are critical to ensure proper public awareness and participation.  Within comment to the FCC, Common Frequency asserted specific pointed to the Commission concerning the new rules:  

1. Broadcasters should at the very least place public notices on their internet outlet of greatest traffic.  This is important as website traffic is supplanted by apps. This would be equivalent to precedent of posting public notice in the newspaper of “greatest general circulation”, as the current law stipulates. 

2. Because there is no comprehensive historical archive of internet postings, broadcasters should make a “screenshot” of that public notice, along with a sworn statement from the station manager validating the dates/times that public notice was run, and place that document in that broadcaster's FCC Public Inspection File.

3. Online public notices should contain hyperlinks to the application and a comment button for the application on the FCC website (similar to commenting in the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System). The FCC should also supplement that application with educational passage on the significance of public notices (at the FCC website).

4. Common Frequency believes it would be very simple and feasible to additionally post public notices on its FCC Public Inspection File website in an automated fashion (from filing information supplied via the filed internet application), additionally providing a comment button to streamline the outdated process of submitting paper filings and typing-up Microsoft Word documents to transfer into PDF comments.

5. Citizens should be able to subscribe to local public notice alerts from the FCC Public Inspection File website. This is an efficient and effective means for updating members of the public who are interested in public notices

Full Comments of Common Frequency can be read here.