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The FCC Online Public File Requirements for Radio and Television Stations

By Melodie A. Virtue

This memo provides an overview of the FCC’s online public file requirements for commercial and non-commercial radio and television stations. We cover how to log into the FCC’s system, the contents of the public file, retention periods and requirements for posting updates.

What is the public file?

The public inspection file is a collection of documents the FCC requires licensees of certain broadcast stations to make available to the public online. The documents include technical applications, quarterly programming reports, ownership reports, EEO reports, political broadcasts, and more as detailed below. The FCC hosts the online public file for each station. The file is available for public inspection and by the FCC staff.

Who must maintain an online public file?

Licensees of full-service radio and television stations and Class A television stations must maintain online public files. That includes Class D noncommercial FM stations. The public file rule does not apply to low-power FM stations or radio and television translator stations.


The FCC has automatically imported many items to the online public file. It uploads each station’s contour map and all electronic filings made in CDBS and LMS. The FCC is in a multi-year process of transitioning all filings to LMS, so there is some inconsistency in what types of applications and reports are filed in each system. The attached chart includes information describing the categories of public file documents that must be posted by stations, the documents that will be posted by the FCC, and document retention periods. There is one supplemental chart for additional requirements specific to television stations.

The FCC also has a helpful webpage explaining the online public file, which is accessible at

Logging on

Stations log on to their FCC-hosted public files through the link at using the station’s facility ID number and passcode. The facility ID number is available on each station’s online public file homepage. You can get the passcode from someone who has accessed the site in the past, such as your Chief Engineer or an attorney who has dealt with FCC filings. If a new passcode is required, it can be generated on the login webpage,, by clicking on “How do I get a passcode.” You will need your FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password to proceed.

Melodie A. Virtue
Principal, Foster Garvey PC
Flour Mill Building, 1000 Potomac Street N.W., Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20007

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