We recently reported on the FCC’s announcement of the availability – for introductory test purposes – of the soon-to-be-mandatory Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) system that it has developed. The new test site, launched by the Commission as of May 12, is intended to let all newbies to the online public file world get familiar with the process. (That universe includes satellite TV (DBS) and radio (SDARS) distributors, most cable operators with 1,000 or more subscribers, and the first batch or radio broadcasters.) The test site will also permit TV veterans to check out the new system, which is said to be functionally similar to the one they’re used to, but different in a number of respects (including the interface). To get to the test site, click on this link.

But there was a problem.

When you get to the test site login page, you are required to enter the Facility ID Number of the station whose file you want to access, along with the special FCC-created OPIF Passcode for that station. TV licensees who have been doing this drill for several years know their Passcodes. But what about, say, radio broadcasters who haven’t had to do this before and who, therefore, have never had to worry about any Passcode(s) for their station(s)?

The FCC’s test site login page includes for all newcomers a link labeled “How do I get a passcode?” The problem was that that link eventually sent you to a blank screen, leaving rookies to the online public file process still Passcode-less. We pointed that out in our post. (A number of readers reported to us that they, too, had reached that blank screen, reassuring us that we weren’t entirely crazy.)

One resourceful reader, our longtime friend John King, went one step further. He reached out directly to the FCC to find out what was what. A helpful FCC staffer got right back to him, and he passed the word along to us.

Here’s the scoop.

At the main login screen for the test OPIF system, if you do not already have a Passcode, click on the “Sign in to Owner Dashboard” link immediately below the login blanks. That will take you to the “Owners Sign In” page. There you will need the licensee’s FRN and FRN password. (Helpful Tip: The system does not recognize FRN’s that include hyphens, so if you’re the kind of person who kicks it old school FRN hyphen-wise, don’t.)

Once you have entered the FRN and password and clicked on the “Sign in” button, you should now find yourself at a screen listing all stations associated with that particular FRN. Each station’s listing provides that station’s Facility ID Number and the FCC-assigned alphanumeric Passcode for that station. The Passcode is case sensitive. In order to keep your own internal record of it (or accurately enter it back on the login screen), we recommend that you simply cut-and-paste it. Transcribing it can be tricky: Zeroes can be mistaken for capital O’s, lowercase L’s might be ones, etc.; cut-and-paste reduces the possibility of frustrating error.

Armed with the Passcode, you can now go back to the main login page for the test site, enter the Facility ID Number and Passcode and, voilà, you are (or should be) looking at that station’s test OPIF, where you should be able to upload, delete and move documents around to your heart’s content.

Remember, the test site is temporary. It will go away (along with anything you may have uploaded for test purposes) as of June 24, 2016, when the real OPIF system kicks in.

Again, we encourage anyone who will be having to worry about setting up an OPIF by June 24 to get out to the test site pronto and give it a whirl or two. Now is the time to get the hang of it.