For nearly 80 years, the FCC's Rules have required broadcasters to file paper copies of various types of documents relating to the control and operation of their stations. Section 73.3613 of the FCC's Rules requires broadcasters to file with the FCC certain contracts and instruments relating to network affiliations, present or future ownership or control, and some personnel agreements, as well as local marketing agreements ("LMAs") and joint sales agreements ("JSAs"). Earlier this week, the FCC voted unanimously to eliminate this requirement.
In eliminating the requirement to file such documents with the Commission, the FCC reasoned that the paper filing rule not only imposed unnecessary burdens on stations, but was redundant with the online public file and Ownership Report requirements; as a result, the requirement did little to serve the public.
For their part, stations must remain diligent and update their online public file contract lists within 30 days of the execution, termination, or amendment of any Section 73.3613 document. Timely filing is now particularly important because all online public file uploads are time stamped, and late uploads are easy for FCC staff to spot at license renewal time.
Though these changes will certainly save broadcasters time and resources in the long run, broadcasters should continue filing Section 73.3613 documents with the FCC for the moment. Before the full rule change can go into effect, it must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. In the past, such approvals have typically taken many months, so this rule change may well not go into effect until sometime next year.