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FCC Comments

Comments on Standardized Program Reporting Requirements for Broadcast Licensees

  • and Angela J. Campbell and Laura M. Moy, Institute for Public Representation
February 13, 2012 |

Contrary to the claims of some broadcasters, adoption of the standardized reporting form proposed by PIPAC would not raise any First Amendment concerns. Broadcasters’ concerns are based on a false belief that the mere fact of reporting requires stations to air certain types of programming. The Commission has made clear that the proposed reporting requirement is not intended to require any particular programming and would not alter broadcasters’ existing public interest requirements. It would merely replace the 25-year-old rule requiring broadcasters to prepare quarterly I/P lists and place them in a public inspection file at the station with a simplified, standardized online electronic filing. Broadcasters have acknowledged that members of the public rarely come to view the I/P lists. Providing the public with easy online access to this data will benefit the public interest by promoting meaningful dialog between the public and broadcasters and better informing FCC licensing and policy making decisions.

In asserting that the standardized form raises First Amendment problems, broadcasters also apply the wrong standard of review. They ignore longstanding Supreme Court precedents applying a lower standard of review to broadcast regulation. At most, heightened scrutiny has been applied only to regulations that were content-based. Since a standardized form neither requires nor prohibits the airing of any programming, it should be reviewed under the rational basis test. But even assuming that heightened scrutiny applies, the standardized form is narrowly tailored to serve substantial government interests, and would easily be found constitutional.

Issues:

Broadcasters have acknowledged that members of the public rarely come to view the I/P lists. Providing the public with easy online access to this data will benefit the public interest by promoting meaningful dialogue between the public and broadcasters and better informing FCC licensing and policy making decisions.

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