In a consent decree with the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast Corp. has agreed to pay $225,000 and keep keep its public-inspection files current and accessible during normal business hours in each system's geographic area.
The agreement settles a complaint filed by unions CWA and IBEW after their November 2003 mass request to inspect public files--at 225 separate Comcast offices turned up numerous violations of the Cable Public File Rule.
Comcast had responded to the complaint offering various reasons for the absence of the files, including that they had been consolidated at a main office, that some political ad documentation resided at the ad sales office rather than with the system public files, and that it read the rule as requiring the files at one location per system and not necessary at every office or in every community.
In addition to having the files at each geographic location, Comcast has pledged to educate its employees about their public file responsibilities, post signs in its offices informing the public of where they can access those files, and institute new monthly and yearly audits.
FCC Commissioner and frequent media critic Michael Copps said the action indicated the need for the FCC to reexamine its public reporting requirements for broadcasting and cable. "It's time the commission reaffirmed the rights of viewers to receive basic information to gauge the accountability of their media."