Aug 10, 2011

FCC fines rising for public file violations, attorney points out

The CommLaw Center blog of law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is cautioning broadcasters to pay closer attention to their public files. Media attorney Scott Flick observes that the Federal Communications Commission is taking a "hardening line on public inspection file violations." In 1997, the FCC established a base fine of $10,000 for public inspection file violations, but tended not to issue fines for the full amount unless it was an egregious problem, such failure to keep a public file at all for some period of time, Flick writes. But over the past decade, $10,000 has become the standard fine for even minor public file violations — and in one recent case, the FCC adjusted that figure upward and issued a $15,000 fine. On Wednesday (Aug. 10) Pillsbury issued an update of its "Special Advisory for Commercial and Noncommercial Broadcasters: Meeting the Radio and Television Public Inspection File Requirements" (PDF) with an overview of the trend. Broadcasters "would be wise to ensure their public file is getting the attention it deserves," Flick advises.

Florida stations to collaborate to save SightLine reading service

Here's some actual good news coming in the wake of the Florida state funding elimination. WSRE-FM in Pensacola won't have to discontinue the longtime SightLine daily reading service for listeners with visual impairments after all, reports the North Escambia news website. WUWF-FM, University of West Florida's UWF Public Media, approached the station with the suggestion to relocate the reading service and coordinating responsibilities there, but continue to use WSRE's SAP (Second Audio Program) channel to deliver the service as it has for nearly two decades. (Although it had been impacted by state cuts, WUWF wasn't hit quite as hard as WSRE.)

WSRE agreed to the joint effort, and the two have even added a new program, The Radio Reader with Dick Estell, a daily half-hour pubradio show featuring newly published books. WUWF also is dedicating a digital radio broadcast channel (WUWF HD-3) to the reading service and will be streaming it online.

"This is a great opportunity for us to work with our public television colleagues in continuing an important community service,” said Pat Crawford, WUWF executive director. Sandy Cesaretti Ray, g.m. at WSRE, said, “We did not want to see the 19-year service end. This kind of collaboration is a win-win for all involved.” WSRE also laid off five employees and made programming cuts in June due to the state funding situation.

The collaborative service will launch in September.