FCC moves toward new rules for TV, radio stations

FCC moves toward new rules for TV, radio stations

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday voted to formally consider ending its requirements that television and radio stations keep copies of letters from viewers and listeners.

It is part of a larger effort to move so-called “public file” requirements — which mandate what records broadcasters must hold on to and make available to the public — online.

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Under current regulations, stations must preserve correspondence from their audience in hard copy. The proposed new rules would allow them to put those documents exclusively online.

The vote was unanimous, with the item drawing praise from Republicans and Democrats alike.

“In my view, our correspondence file mandate is an unnecessary regulatory burden. Indeed, the very words ‘hardcopy,’ ‘paper,’ and ‘inspection file’ are enough to make an increasingly digital citizenry yawn,” said Ajit Pai, the FCC's senior Republican. “I therefore support the proposal to eliminate this mandate.”

The item also proposes no longer requiring cable providers to publicize the location of the facility central to distributing content to their customers.

The proposed rule changes will require another vote to take effect.

The vote came at a quiet meeting for the FCC, which over the past several months has considered several controversial items. One recent meeting was delayed as commissioners haggled over reforms to the Lifeline subsidies for phone and internet service for consumers.

The commissioners also signed off on new rules governing how communications companies must update the FCC about outages on their networks and moved to consider other ways to update the rules.

“Reviewing and, where appropriate, updating our rules to make sure they are keeping pace with technological advances and changing consumer preferences has been an agency-wide priority for the past several years,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a formal statement.

“When the stakes are potentially life and death, as they are with public safety, it’s imperative that we do so with our outage reporting rules.”

The agency also approved an item that brings it closer to holding an auction aimed at expanding broadband service in rural parts of the country.