This afternoon, the FCC issued an erratum revising the deadline for submitting Comments in the rule making proceeding regarding potential modifications to the ownership report filing requirements for noncommercial broadcasters.  Comments in this proceeding are now due by June 26th, not June 29th as previously indicated.  Please see our earlier post, here, discussing the

UPDATE:  On June 2, the FCC issued an erratum revising the Comment date in this proceeding to June 26th.  We’ve updated our earlier post to reflect the change.

The FCC today issued a Public Notice announcing the filing deadline for comments regarding potential modifications to the ownership report filing requirements for noncommercial broadcasters (see our

In a truly eleventh-hour decision, the FCC released an Order late Friday evening suspending the filing of FCC Form 323 Ownership Reports that would otherwise be due on Monday, June 1st for certain broadcast stations.  In its recent Report and Order adopted in the proceeding devoted to Promoting Diversification of Ownership in the Broadcasting Services

The full text of the FCC’s revisions to its ownership report filing process was released last week.  The new rules will require that all commercial stations (including LPTV stations) file an updated Form 323 on November 1 every other year – starting in 2009.  The Order does not add much to the summary that we provided when the decision was first announced, though it does make clear that the electronic form will be revised to no longer allow for PDF attachments, instead requiring that all information be provided on the electronic form itself, so that it can be more easily searched.  With complex ownership structures, which are sometimes not easily explained in the confines of an FCC form, this may create some difficulties.  The Order did not seem to freeze the obligations for the filing of Form 323 Ownership Reports on the old version of the form on the current schedule while the new form is being created and approved by the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act, so stations in states with June 1 deadlines for their biennial reports should continue their preparation (see our Advisory on the the reports that are due on June 1 for radio stations in Arizona, District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, and television stations in Michigan and Ohio).

The Order also asked for further comment on the Ownership Report requirements for noncommercial licensees, including LPFM stations.  The Commission asks not only for comments on whether noncommercial operators should be required to file their reports on the same two year cycle as commercial broadcasters, but also for comments on what information should be required from these operators.  As noted by the FCC, the question of who controls a noncommercial station is often not an easy one – as there are varying degrees of control and oversight of station operations at many of the institutions that hold noncommercial licenses.  As noted by the FCC, there has been a Notice of Inquiry into noncommercial broadcast station ownership pending since 1989, trying to set out when there is a transfer of control of such entities that needs prior FCC approval.  Noncommercial stations have been operating under the interim policy set forth in that Notice for almost 20 years.  While the Commission does not seemingly ask for any change in the interim policy at this point, by gathering information about what ownership information should be reported on the new ownership report for a noncommercial entity, a resolution of that long-pending proceeding could potentially be in the works.

Continue Reading Rules On New Ownership Reports Released – Including Proposals for Information from Noncommercial Broadcasters

At its meeting today, the FCC decided to revamp its Ownership Report filing process – requiring all stations to file Biennial Ownership Reports on FCC Form 323 on November 1 of this year – even stations that have just filed those reports in the normal course in the last few months.  All stations will have to file every two years thereafter – on November 1 of every other year.  Reports will also be required from Low Power TV stations and Class A TV stations, which have not in the past had to file reports.  Reports will also be required from stations that are owned by an individual, and by general partnerships in which all of the partners are individuals (or, in the FCC’s legalese, "natural persons").  In the past, such stations did not have to file reports as any change in ownership would have required, at a minimum, the filing of a Form 316 short-form assignment or transfer application.  Finally, the Commission will require the reporting of the interests of currently non-attributable owners who are not attributable simply because there is a single majority shareholder in the licensee.

The FCC is not asking for this information because it wants to track improper transfers, but instead so that it can gather information about the racial and gender make-up of the broadcast ownership universe.  This information has been required on ownership reports for the last ten years, but the FCC did not believe that the system was extensive enough to capture all information about the ownership of broadcast properties, as so many stations were not covered by the requirements.  Why does the FCC want racial and gender information about the owners of stations?  To potentially take more aggressive actions to encourage minority ownership.  The FCC has considered such actions in the past, but has not felt that it take actions specifically targeted to minority and female applicants, as there was no record of past discrimination in the broadcast industry.  The government can constitutionally only make racial or gender-based decisions if these decisions are to remedy the effects of past discrimination.  To justify such acts, the government agency must demonstrate the past discrimination – and these new filing requirements are meant to gather that information through what is called an Adarand study.  In the recent past, when it adopted certain diversity initiatives for designated entities (like the ability of a designated entity to buy an expiring construction permit and get an extension, which we recently wrote about here), the Commission had to define a designated entity as a "small business" defined by SBA standards.  Chairman Copps today said that this definition did not truly benefit diversity as favoring small businesses "generally benefit white males."

Continue Reading FCC to Require New Ownership Reports from all Commerical Broadcasters on November 1

We recently wrote about the Federal Communications Commission’s actions in their Diversity docket, designed to promote new entrants into the ranks of broadcast station owners. In addition to the rules adopted in the proceeding, the FCC is seeking comment on a number of other ideas – some to restrict the definition of the Designated Entities that are eligible to take advantage of these rules, others to expand the universe of media outlets available to potential broadcast owners – including proposals to expand the FM band onto TV channels 5 and 6, and proposals to allow certain AM stations, which were to be returned to the FCC after their owners received construction permits for expanded band stations, to retain those stations or transfer them to Designated Entities. The proposals, on which public comment is being sought, are summarized below.

Definition of Designated Entity. The first issue raised by the Commission deals with whether the class of applicants entitled to Designated Entity status and entitled to take advantage of the Commission’s diversity initiatives should be restricted. One proposal is to restrict the Designated Entity status to companies controlled by racial minorities. The Commission expressed skepticism about that proposal, noting that the courts had throw out several versions of the FCC’s EEO rules, finding that there was insufficient justification offered by the FCC to constitutionally justify raced-based preferences. The Commission asked that proponents of such preferences provide a “compelling” showing of needed, as necessary for a constitutional justification for governmental race-based discrimination.

Continue Reading FCC’s Acts to Increase Diversity in Media Ownership – Part 2, The Proposals for Future Actions – Channel 6 for FM, AM Expanded Band, Definition of Designated Entity, Must Carry for Class A TV and Others