FCC alludes to online filing system in the works; NAB asks for stay

As we reported, an announcement in the Federal Register on July 3 advised that the FCC’s revised public file rule for TV stations is set to take effect on August 2. After we had posted that news, the Commission issued a public notice which (a) re-confirmed the date, and (b) didn’t say diddly about any possible flexibility in the date arising from any need to comply with the Privacy Act. So the FCC, at least for the time being, is sticking to the August 2 effective date.

What about the fact (which we mentioned) that the Commission hadn’t announced that it had developed an online filing system to accommodate TV public files. No problem. According to the public notice, “[t]he Commission will soon schedule user testing and educational webinars for the online public file to ensure that the uploading of materials by broadcasters can be conducted smoothly and efficiently.” Without actually saying so, that suggests that the FCC’s got some kind of system in the works. OK then. The fact that that system hasn’t been publicly revealed – much less test-driven by any of the several thousand licensees who will be expected to be using it routinely in less than 30 days – seems not to be of concern to the Commission. Its optimism is impressive.

And in our earlier post, we suggested that the NAB, which already has an appeal of the revised public rule pending, might be inclined to seek a stay of the August 2 date. Sure enough, before the end of the day on July 3 the NAB had done just that.

Well, not exactly. We had suggested that the NAB might ask the court to issue a stay; the NAB instead asked the FCC itself to put the rule on hold pending the resolution of the NAB appeal. For what it’s worth, we’ll stick with our prediction that the NAB will eventually be asking the court for a stay, since it seems unlikely to the max that the FCC will be inclined to grant a stay. That doesn’t mean that the NAB’s petition to the Commission was wasted or ill-advised. To the contrary, the court normally expects parties seeking a stay to apply first to the agency itself. Thus, it makes sense that the NAB would ask the FCC at the earliest possible date for a stay, to get that particular procedural step out of the way. Having done so, the NAB is now in a position to head to court if (as the smart money expects) the Commission denies, or simply ignores, the NAB’s stay request.

Check back here at CommLawBlog.com for further developments.