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The FCC Online Public File Requirements for Radio and Television Stations

October 2019
By Melodie A. Virtue, Principal, Foster Garvey

This memo provides an overview of the FCC’s online public file requirements for  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 pass code. The facility ID number is available on each station’s online public file homepage. You can get the pass code 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 pass code is required, it can be generated on the login webpage,, by clicking on “How do I get a pass code.” You will need your FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password to proceed.

Mechanics of Online Posting

The FCC has organized your public file to include folders for the types of documents that need to be posted. The FCC has posted a few of the required items in the appropriate folders. For the items that you are required to post and the items already posted by the FCC, you must take into consideration how long each item is to be retained in the file. Information about how each item is filed and the retention period is posted in the table below.

Documents must be uploaded to the appropriate folder in PDF, DOC(x), RTF, XLS(x), or TXT formats. To the extent possible, posted documents should be text-searchable. Metadata need not be created or preserved.

Deleting an item from the public file will take it out of the public view, but the FCC is still able to view all items that were uploaded to the file. You can always restore an item to public view if it was removed by mistake.

Penalty for Noncompliance

Timely filing is extremely important with the online system. The FCC staff can now review public files with ease to find missing or late filings. Fines up to $10,000 are not uncommon for substantial failures to include items in the public file as required.

Back-up files

The FCC maintains a back-up of the online public files and makes it possible for stations to create mirror copies. Nevertheless, stations must still maintain back-up copies of their political files and provide information pertaining to the political file to candidates and any other member of the public in the event the FCC’s online public files become unavailable. The FCC recommends that stations periodically make mirror copies of their online public files from the FCC’s website and keep any additional documentation that has not been uploaded since the last time they downloaded a mirror copy as a back-up. There is a button on the site to make the mirror copy.


Item How Posted Retention Period
(1)     The station’s FCC authorization. Includes any other documents necessary to reflect any modifications or any conditions that the FCC has placed on authorization. FCC posts Until superseded.
(2)     Pending applications and related materials.



If a petition to deny is filed against an application, the file must include a statement that a petition to deny has been filed. The statement must provide the name and address of the party filing the petition to deny.


A copy of any Initial Decision or Final Decision in those very rare cases in which a hearing is conducted with respect to the application.

FCC posts




Station posts






FCC posts

Until final action on the application. Except in the case of an application grant that is appealed, finality usually occurs approximately 45 days after grant.



(a)  Construction Permit Applications and Assignment/Transfer Applications that have been granted pursuant to a waiver showing must be kept in the file as long as the waiver is in effect; and

(b)  Renewal Applications that are granted for less than a full license term (a so-called “short- term renewal”) must be kept in the file until final action has been taken on the renewal application filed immediately after the

shortened license term.


Item How Posted Retention Period
If the application made a claim for points to be used to decide among mutually-exclusive applications (such as a claim for points for being local or for not having an interest in other stations in the market), the public file must include documentation supporting the applicant’s claim to those points. If the FCC issues a decision with respect to an application filed by the licensee, the file must include a copy of the decision.
Station posts
(4)     The contour map. FCC posts As long as information is correct.
(5)     Ownership Report and any statements filed with the FCC certifying that the current report is accurate.

All related material, including certain contracts, including copies of television network affiliation agreements as required by Rule 73.3613 or, at the licensee’s option, a list of such contracts.


A licensee or permittee that chooses to list contracts must provide a copy of any covered contracts to requesting parties within seven days.

FCC posts




Station posts

Until the next Ownership Report is filed with the FCC.



For documents listed in FCC Rule 73.3613, such as contacts relating to ownership, TV affiliation agreements, and formation documents (e.g. articles, bylaws, or operating agreement), keep as long as in effect.


Item How Posted Retention Period
(6)         A Political file pursuant to Section 73.1943. The commercial station political file must contain:

  • All specific requests for time by or on behalf of a candidate for public office.
Stations in top 50 DMAs and with five or more employees must post on FCC online public file going forward as of June 24, 2016.


All other stations post on FCC’s online public file on a going forward basis as of their public file transition date no later than March 1, 2018.


A hard copy of the political file before the transition date must be maintained for the remainder of the two-year retention period.

All records required to be placed in the political file must, in the absence of unusual circumstances, be placed there immediately and retained in the file for two years.
  • All specific requests for time by non-candidates to advertise on a national legislative issue or about a federal political candidate.
  • Disposition of the request (e.g., schedule of time purchased, when spots actually aired, rates charged, and classes of time purchased).
§  A record of any free time provided to candidates.
Federal candidate certifications under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (that the spot does not refer to an opponent or, if it does, the spot states that the candidate approved the spot).
For noncommercial stations:
A Political file pursuant to Section 73.1943:
  • All requests for time by or on behalf of candidates.
  • Disposition of the request.
  • A record of any free time provided to candidates other than time on programs exempt from the equal opportunities rule.


Item How Posted Retention Period
(7)     List of Chief Executive Officers or Members or Board of Directors if the station broadcasts a matter involving a controversial issue of public importance and a corporation, committee, association, unincorporated group or other entity pays for or furnishes the matter, or furnishes any material or service of any kind as an inducement to broadcast the matter. Station posts Two years.
(8)         Equal employment opportunity documents created pursuant to Section 73.2080:

  • Annual EEO Public File Report (for employment units with five or more full-time employees), which includes the following:
Station posts


Station must also post current Annual EEO Public File Report

on the station’s homepage.

Until final action on next renewal application.
1. A list of all full-time vacancies filled by the station’s employment unit during the preceding year, identified by job title  

FCC posts Forms 396, 396A and


2. For each such vacancy, the recruitment source(s) utilized to fill the vacancy, identified by name, address, contact person and telephone number;
3. The recruitment source that referred the hiree for each full- time vacancy during the preceding year;
4. Data reflecting the total number of persons interviewed for full- time vacancies during the preceding year and the total number of interviewees referred by each recruitment source utilized in connection with such vacancies; and
5. A list and brief description of initiatives undertaken during the preceding year (examples of initiatives can be found at Section 73.2080(c)(2)) of the FCC rules.


Item How Posted Retention Period
  • If the station is audited, FCC audit letter, station response and the FCC’s finding regarding its review.
  • FCC Form 396 – EEO Program Report (filed with renewal).
  • FCC Form 396A (filed with assignment, transfer or new station applications).
(9)     The FCC’s “The Public and Broadcasting” manual. The current version is dated July 2008. FCC posts Until superseded.
(10)      FCC investigation or complaint of which the station has been advised.

  •  FCC Letter of Inquiry.
  • Station’s response to FCC.
  • FCC ruling.


FCC posts Station posts FCC posts



Until the FCC notifies station that the material may be removed.

(11) Local Public Notice announcements relating to the station’s renewal. The dates and times that the local public notice of filing announcement was broadcast and the text of that broadcast must be included. Station posts in FCC online public file within 7 days of the last day of broadcast of the local public notice. Until a grant of the renewal application for which the announcement is made becomes final.

List of donors supporting specific programs.

Station posts and updates reasonably often as changes occur. Two years from date of last broadcast of program.


Item How Posted Retention Period
(15) Quarterly Issues/Programs lists.

List of programs that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding three-month period. This list shall provide a listing of issues and the programming that addressed those issues. The list must describe the programs and specify the time, date, duration and title of each program, the issue addressed, and a sentence or two description on content.

Station posts by ten days after the end of each calendar quarter. Until final action on next renewal application.
Note: Class D FM stations are exempt from preparing quarterly issues/program lists.

For non-CPB funded stations, quarterly accounts of third-party fundraising that include the date, time and duration of the fundraiser, the type of fundraising activity, the name of the nonprofit raising funds, a brief description of the fundraiser’s cause, and an approximation of the total amount raised if the station was involved with collecting funds.

Station uploads quarterly Until final action on next renewal application.


Election of mandatory carriage on local cable system and related correspondence must be posted in the public inspection file.
Station posts For the duration of any period to which the request applies.