Stations Hit for Shoddy Public Files


Putting some teeth in chairman Michael Powell’s broadcast-localism initiative, the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday told 28 radio stations they face fines for sloppy maintenance of records that stations must keep on hand for public inspection.

Public files must contain the station’s license; signal-contour maps; documentation of complaints or FCC investigations; ownership and employment reports; network-affiliation and station-management contracts; and records of requests for political advertising time.

Fines of $3,000 were proposed for each station.

The stations disclosed the public-file shortcomings in license-renewal applications now under review for the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. During the last renewal cycle, inadequate public files generated only a warning.

"Our decision to fine these stations reflects the seriousness of the violations," Media Bureau chief Ken Ferree said. "The public file provides citizens with important information about broadcasters' service to their communities."

To determine whether broadcasters should be doing more to fulfill their obligations to serve their local communities, Powell said in August that the FCC will study whether more obligations on broadcasters are needed.

As part of the inquiry, he and other commissioners plan to hold hearings across the country to hear opinions of viewers and listeners. The hearings will also give attendees a "how-to" on filing petitions to deny broadcast licenses.

The first hearing will take place this month in Charlotte, N.C.