A bill was introduced in Congress this week (see press release here) proposing to roll back the FCC’s requirement that noncommercial broadcasters, in connection with the Biennial Ownership Reports that are due by December 1 of this year, get an FCC Registration Number for every person who has an attributable interest in a noncommercial licensee. As we wrote here and here when the FCC adopted this requirement, and here when the FCC’s Media Bureau rejected reconsideration petitions just a few weeks ago, that would require noncommercial stations to get the Social Security Number from each of their Board members (or a substitute set of personal information including the last 4 digits of the Social Security Number) in order to apply for the FRN. While the personal information would not be made public, many worry that Board members, especially those serving on the Board of an organization where the broadcast operations are but a small part of the institution’s mission (e.g. a Board member on the Board of a university that has a radio license) would be reluctant to provide that information – and either discourage people from participating on the Board or put them in peril of FCC enforcement actions if they refuse to provide their personal information.
The introduction of the bill was hailed by Commissioner O’Rielly in a statement (here), where he expressed his hope that the information collection requirement would be repealed, either through this legislative action or by the FCC under the new administration which will start its work next week. Either way, noncommercial licensees may see some relief from this obligation. Stay tuned to see how this develops in the coming months.