FCC moves broadcasters’ disclosures into the cloud

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FCC moves broadcasters’ disclosures into the cloud

For more than 50 years, broadcasters have kept “public files,” paper records of community-relevant information that people could view if they went to a broadcast station to get them. The Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) project changed that.

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In a series of 25 two-week sprints, the Federal Communications Commission replaced the paper-based system with a cloud-hosted repository, which aligns the agency with federal digital and transparency requirements and makes the records more readily available. It also eases the burden on broadcast entities by automatically uploading FCC data. Major TV networks and cable services also automated their processes using FCC’s application programming interfaces.

The files include disclosures about political advertisement purchases, sponsorship information for political matters and ownership reports from about 22,000 broadcast service entities nationwide.

Because OPIF collects and manages files in myriad formats, the FCC developed an in-house enterprise file service based on Aspose, a file formats API provider, that could be used across the portfolio. It also takes advantage of several managed services from Amazon Web Services, plus microservice APIs. Additionally, an automatically scaling cloud infrastructure means the repository can easily adapt during peak -- typically political -- periods.

“The entire OPIF application was built using the same set of APIs we published to the public,” Hossein Hashemzadeh, deputy chief of the FCC’s Video Division, told GCN. “Entities can upload documents directly to the website or using the APIs.”

The FCC used agile and DevOps processes to build the repository so that it could receive and incorporate constant feedback from stakeholders. The agency also built the project with users in mind, beginning with a Section 508-compliant, responsive HTML5 prototype.

With OPIF, the FCC has reduced broadcasters’ reporting burden and embraced the spirit of open, public access.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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