In comments filed last month with the Federal Communication Commission, the Public Notice Resource Center criticized Commissioners who mocked opposition to a recent proposal that would eliminate FCC rules requiring broadcasters to publish a notice in a local newspaper when they file certain license applications with the Commission.
“We were struck by the dismissive tone adopted in the statements of (some of the Commissioners) respecting the notion that local newspapers might still serve as the most effective means to deliver notice to the public,” said PNRC in its comments. “How did we reach a point where their consideration of the issue of public notice is so facile they ridicule a longstanding practice without bothering to provide any evidence that the alternative they’re promoting would be an improvement?”
The winning entry in PNRC’s 2016 Public Notice Journalism contest was Ken Little’s story in the Greeneville (Tenn.) Sun about the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) decision to terminate its provider agreement with the John M. Reed Health & Rehabilitation facility in Limestone.
In this year’s contest, third place went to a similar story — Victor Parkin’s coverage in The Mirror-Exchange of CMS’s closure of Milan Health Care and the $2 million in fines subsequently levied against the Gibson County nursing home by the federal government and the state of Tennessee.
For over 200 years, public notices have been published in newspapers in part as a consequence of the inviolability of newsprint. Legislators have always understood that when they passed laws requiring notice of official actions to be published in newspapers, a record of the notice would be easy to authenticate and would remain in newspaper archives in perpetuity.
A recent conference of independent researchers provides an excellent reminder that government websites fail miserably at meeting that traditional public-notice standard.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced it was eliminating the mandatory requirement to provide newspaper notice of permitting and implementation actions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The rule, which will take effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register, requires notification on EPA’s new “National Public Notices Website” and allows other agencies that implement EPA-approved CAA programs to publish notices on their websites as well.
The rule doesn’t prevent permitting authorities from supplementing notice on their own websites with newspaper notice. In addition, it doesn’t override state laws requiring state and local environmental agencies to use newspapers to notify the public about EPA-approved permitting actions under the CAA. In those states, new laws would have to be passed to eliminate the newspaper-notice requirement.
The Public Notice Resource Center today filed comments urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to deprive the public of newspaper notices relating to the approval of permits under the Clean Air Act (CAA). EPA is considering notifying the public about CAA permits only on a government website.
PNRC was joined in the comments by the 43 other organizations representing newspapers and journalists.
On Dec. 29, EPA announced its intention to reduce the public notice it currently provides in connection with most CAA actions by eliminating the requirement that the notices run in local newspapers near the potential sources of pollution EPA is planning to approve.