Fifty-years ago this fall, as a bewildered University of Oregon freshman, I showed up for an orientation session for newbies who wanted to be on the air at what was then student-programmed KWAX. The station’s chief engineer introduced us to the program log, told us how to take meter readings (required every half hour as I recall) and showed us where the station’s license was posted. He then stuck in our hands a study guide for an FCC Third Class Radio Telephone Operator Permit and told us to come back when we had our “Third Phone.” Third Phone and program log requirements disappeared long ago and for many years stations have had the discretion to decide when or if to take most meter readings. The only vestige of my 1968 introduction to broadcasting that has remained is the obligation for the station’s license to be posted. And that may soon be a thing of the past.
On May 10, the FCC unanimously voted to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) suggesting elimination of various rules requiring broadcasters to post their licenses, ownership information, and contact information in a physical location. This measure is part of the Commission’s continued push in its Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative, which aims to update the regulations of the FCC.
The FCC argues that the rules on posting this type of information are “redundant and obsolete now that licensing information is readily accessible online.”
The Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative aims to also “remove unnecessary requirements that can impede competition and innovation in the media marketplace.” I don’t know that getting rid of license posting rules will foster “competition and innovation in the media marketplace,” but it will eliminate one small hassle broadcasters have had to deal with over the years.
The FCC is currently seeking comment on several issues regarding the current posting rules, including:
- Whether the rules continue to serve the public interest (given that this information is easily accessible online);
- Whether these rules serve any public safety purposes; and
- Whether there is any continuing need for LPTV, FM and TV translator, and booster stations to post signs on their towers reporting the name and address of the person and place where station records are stored.
During the FCC’s May Open Meeting, Commissioner O’Rielly commented on his recent visit to One World Trade Center where he saw broadcaster licenses and authorizations “literally taped to the wall. No member of the public has access to this facility to view this paperwork, which was in fact conspicuously placed.” Similarly, Chairman Pai stated, “As a result, I’m skeptical that our license posting rules currently serve any useful purpose and look forward to reviewing comments from stakeholders discussing whether they should be eliminated.” This marks the tenth “modernization” item to be crossed off of Chairman Ajit Pai’s regulatory weed whacking efforts.
Comments on this matter are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.