Such a file is required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States, and by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The public inspection file must be maintained at the station's main studio and it must be accessible to anyone during business hours. Stations are required to provide copies at the requester's expense, or if the facility is outside of the community of license, provide copies via mail at their own expense. As of November 2007, the FCC required public inspection files must also be maintained on the station's website, and are optionally distributed to public libraries in the station's broadcast area for the sake of convenience. In these cases, public correspondence from viewers and political reports are usually left out due to cost concerns or misuse of the information provided. The FCC itself began to maintain a site in 2014 where a station can upload their public file components, allowing the public full access to the materials contained within without the restrictions of business hours or a studio visit.
All or part of the file may be maintained in digital format as long as it is accessible at the time of inspection.
U.S. stations must keep the following materials in their public inspection file:
The instrument of authorization shows the station's frequency, call letters, operating power, transmitter location, etc., as well as any special conditions imposed by the FCC on the station's operation. The license also shows when it was issued and when it will expire.
The public file must contain copies of all applications filed with the FCC that are still pending before either the FCC or the courts. These include applications to sell the station or to modify its facilities (for example, to increase power, change the antenna system, or change the transmitter location). Also, the station must keep copies of any construction or sales application whose grant required us[who?] to waive our[who?] rules.
Stations must keep a copy of any written agreements they make with local viewers or listeners. These "citizen agreements" deal with programming, employment, or other issues of community concern. The station must keep these agreements in the public file for as long as they are in effect.
The public file must contain copies of any service contour maps or other information submitted with any application filed with the FCC that reflects the station's service contours and/or its main studio and transmitter location, if there are any, as not all stations are required to have contour maps.
Stations must keep material relating to any matter that is the subject of an FCC investigation or complaint.
All correspondence from the public must be filed.
All broadcast facilities must keep a list of program material aired for the betterment of the local community. TV stations must have records concerning commercial limits and children's programming, along with their compliance with the E/I rule.
Upon filing for license renewal, section 73.3580  states broadcast facilities must make public announcements of their intention to continue broadcasting and notify the community that they may comment on the performance of the licensee. Dates and times of these broadcasts must be maintained in the public file.
For commercial facilities, a copy of every contract or agreement for brokered time must be available. Local marketing agreements (LMAs) are also included.
The public file must contain a copy of the most recent, complete Ownership Report filed for the station. This report has the names of the owners of the station and their ownership interests, lists any contracts related to the station that are required to be filed with the FCC, and identifies any interest held by the station licensee in other broadcast stations.
Stations have to keep either a copy of all the contracts or an up-to-date list identifying all such contracts they have on file with the FCC.
For commercial facilities, any joint sales between the two must be documented.
Per Section 73.6001 , class A television stations must keep copies of their continued eligibility.
Canadian stations must keep the following materials in their public inspection file:
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2008)
The official rules from the FCC are contained in Title 47 CFR Part 73:
Sections 73.3526 and 73.3527 are not applicable to low-power FM and TV stations and applicants.