Late Friday afternoon notice announces early Monday morning demo (and another demo the following day)

Yesterday afternoon we reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit had denied the NAB’s request to stay the effective date of the revised online TV public file rule. That action clears the way for the rule to kick in on August 2, 2012. We predicted that the FCC would in short order be issuing a public notice alerting affected licensees of exactly how they’re supposed to comply once the effective date rolls around.

And sure enough, at about 3:30 p.m. on Friday, July 27, we received a notice from the Commission.  Yay! But wait – it’s not the notice we expected. Darn.

The Friday afternoon notice simply advises that the Commission is going to be conducting two online “screensharing” demonstrations of the public file system that it has developed. The demonstrations will “cover the material presented during the July 17, 2012 demonstration”, according to the notice. (The July 17 demonstration was conducted at the FCC’s headquarters; while it was supposedly also available to online viewers, several published reports indicated that online viewers encountered considerable difficulties when they tried to watch.)

In other words, this notice does not announce the official kick-off of the new rule, nor does it purport to give us all the precise chapter and verse for assuring compliance with the new rule. It’s a pretty good bet that such a notice is indeed in the works. We’ll keep our eye out for it and get word posted here as soon as it’s available.

Meanwhile, as to the upcoming demonstrations.

They’re scheduled for Monday, July 30 at 9:00 a.m. and Tuesday, July 31 at 4:00 p.m. (We’re guessing that the times are ET, but the notice doesn’t actually specify that.) The notice provides information for accessing the show – but be alert: the audio for the demos is by teleconference, and the notice emphatically instructs that “[p]arties must join the call before the scheduled start time.”

Our colleague Peter Tannenwald attended the July17 demonstration and reported favorably about the FCC’s system. Since it appears that that system is indeed going to be with us for a while, it’s a good idea to get as familiar as possible with it. The online demos are probably a good place to start. And while the new rule applies only to TV stations for now, the smart money figures that it’s just a matter of time before the FCC expands it to include radio stations as well. With that in mind, radio licensees might want to take advantage of this opportunity to see what is likely in store for them.

One final observation. The timing of the notice concerning the demonstrations is puzzling. Why issue this late on a Friday afternoon in order to announce a demonstration occurring at 9:00 a.m. the following Monday? We happened to receive the notice because we subscribe to a service that delivers FCC releases as they get issued. But we suspect that the vast majority of broadcasters don’t enjoy that luxury. And the late release of the notice assured that it would not be included in the Friday afternoon editions of most trade journals. So while it’s nice that the FCC is apparently trying to introduce us all to its spiffy new online filing system (even if that introduction is occurring just a couple of days before we’re all supposed to be using that system officially), the Commission might want to work on its scheduling skills a bit. 

Perhaps the Commission was counting on CommLawBlog to get the word out. In that case, mission accomplished.