E-MAIL IN THE PUBLIC FILE
Q: Do we have to keep every e-mail message the station receives in our public file?
A: No. FCC Rule 73. 3526(e)(9) requires that the station place in its public inspection file all written comments and suggestions received from the public regarding station operation, unless the writer has requested that the letter not be made public or when the station feels that it should be excluded from public inspection because it is indecent, defamatory or obscene.
E-mail messages are included to the extent that they are transmitted via the internet to station management or to an e-mail address that is publicized by the station. Personal e-mail messages sent to station employees need not be placed in the public file. E-mail messages may be retained in either written or electronic format. However, if the e-mail is kept electronically, the station must be prepared to provide either a paper copy or access to a computer terminal at the location of the public file in order to access the e-mail. In the case of identical communications, the station may retain one sample copy and a list that identifies the parties who sent the others.
ACCESS TO THE PUBLIC FILE
Q: Can our station require people who want to look at the public file to make an appointment in advance, or come back later if the person who handles the public file is not here when they want to look at it? Can we require them to identify themselves and tell us why they want to see the public file?
A: No to both questions. The Public File must be available at any time during regular business hours. The FCC's Public Inspection File Rule requires that a station provide "ready access" to its public file. A station may not require that a member of the public make an appointment in advance or return at another time to inspect the public file, or that members of the public examine the public file only at time most convenient to the station or its staff.
In addition, the station cannot require individuals who request access to the public file to identify themselves or the organization they represent. Neither can the station require the person who wants to inspect the file to state why they want to inspect the file.
Public files are migrating to the internet in the FCC’s database. Markets 1 – 50 have already converted, with the balance of stations due to migrate by 2018.
COPIES OF DOCUMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC INSPECTION FILE
Q: Is my station required to make copies of documents in the Public File if someone inspecting the File wants a copy?
A: Yes. Any material which is required to be kept in the Local Public Inspection File must be available for machine reproduction. This includes documents contained in the political section, as well as, documents in applications, license renewal, ownership and all other sections of the File.
The requesting party may be required to pay a reasonable amount for the copying, normally the station's cost. The copies must be made within a reasonable time, based on the volume of the copying request and availability of copying equipment. However, the copied documents must be provided within a maximum of seven (7) days, unless copying facilities are not available in the station's community.
When a document is removed from the Public File for copying, especially if the copying will take place outside the station, and the document will be out of the File for any substantial amount of time, a notation to that effect, including the anticipated return date/time, should be placed in the File where the document would normally be located. The notation should identify the document sufficiently so that if a member of the public (or an FCC inspector) inspects the File and looks for that document, it will be apparent why it is missing and when it will be available for inspection and copying.