FCC Plans To Toss Broadcast License Posting Rules


Some 88 years ago, the FCC adopted its first broadcast license posting rules. Over the years, these rules were expanded to apply to then-nascent services, including FM radio and TV.

Then came the internet … but no changes to the FCC’s requirements. That’s poised to change in another “modernization” proposal launched Thursday (5/10) by the Commission.

As the “vast majority of the information contained on these licenses is now available through the Commission’s electronic databases,” the Commission has moved ahead with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that asks whether regulations requiring broadcast licenses and related authorizations to be physically posted are outdated and no longer necessary.

The NPRM is officially the Amendment of Parts 0, 1, 5, 73, and 74 of the Commission’s Rules Regarding Posting of Station Licenses and Related Information, or “MB Docket No. 18-121.”

Commenting on the NPRM, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “Nearly 90 years ago, the FCC’s predecessor, the Federal Radio Commission, first adopted rules requiring broadcast licenses to be posted.  But, it didn’t explain why.  Nonetheless, these rules were expanded in future years to apply to new services deployed by broadcasters.

“Perhaps the motivation back then was to ensure that station authorizations, ownership, and contact information would be readily available to the Commission and the public.  But today, the vast majority of this information is easily accessible via the Commission’s electronic databases.  Moreover, in some cases, you can’t see posted licenses even if you want to; the transmitter sites at which stations are required to post them aren’t physically accessible to or viewable by the public.

“As a result, I’m skeptical that our license posting rules currently serve any useful purpose and look forward to reviewing comments from stakeholders discussing whether they should be eliminated … This might sound like a simple Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, but our team nonetheless had to go through our regulations with a fine-tooth comb to locate all the relevant rules.  Indeed, the appendix containing the proposed rule changes is over six pages long.”