On Friday the Commission released a further Order confirming certain recent changes to its ownership reporting requirements for commercial broadcast stations and soliciting additional input on the reporting of certain non-attributable interest holders. Earlier this year, the Commission revised its rules regarding the reporting of ownership interests by commercial broadcasters. The FCC also recast its FCC Form 323 Ownership Report to collect and organize the ownership data in a more useful manner. (Our earlier summary of those changes can be found here.) By its Order last week, the Commission denied a Petition for Reconsideration filed by the National Association of Broadcasters and reiterated that sole proprietors must file an FCC Form 323 biennially to report on their ownership interests.
In addition, the Commission ratified the Media Bureau’s recent decision to push back the filing deadline for the FCC Form 323 from November 1st to no earlier than 30 days after the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approves the modifications to the Form 323. The revisions to the FCC Form 323 are still under consideration and it is not clear when the OMB will approve the collection of the information required by the new version of the Form. (See our earlier posts here and here regarding the OMB’s review of the Form 323 under the Paperwork Reduction Act.) The Commission also noted its agreement with the Media Bureau’s decision to require that each and every filing entity obtain an FCC Registration Number ("FRN") in order to complete the ownership reporting, and that each officer, director, and shareholder disclosed on the report also have an FRN.
With respect to the reporting of certain non-attributable interests, the Commission’s Order granted the NAB’s request for reconsideration and deleted the previously adopted requirement that entities with a single majority shareholder disclose all minority shareholders (despite the single majority shareholder exemption) and that "eligible entities" disclose otherwise non-attributable investors. The NAB had argued, and the FCC agreed, that the logic for requiring the reporting of these two types of non-attributable interest holders was ill defined and that the intention to impose this requirement was not explicitly stated or developed in the record leading up to the rule change this past May. Accordingly, the Commission has opened a further comment period to address the specific question of whether these two types of non-attributable interest holders should be divulged on commercial broadcasters’ biennial ownership reports. Comments on this narrow topic will be due within 30 days of when this Order and Further NPRM are published in the Federal Register, with Reply Comments due within 45 days of publication. A full copy of the Commission’s Order and NPRM, including details on how comments can be filed in this proceeding, is available here.