The FCC on Thursday issued a Public Notice announcing that, at the end of the day on November 27, 2017, the current versions of FCC Forms 323 and 323E will be retired. These forms will be replaced in the near future by a new version of the ownership report in the FCC’s LMS database. If
FCC Form 323E
FCC Announces Information Session on Revised Biennial Ownership Reports
The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice announcing that it will be holding an information session on November 28, 2017 at 1 PM Eastern Time to familiarize broadcasters with the new Biennial Ownership Report forms. This information session can be viewed live online and will also be archived for viewing after the session (archive…
June Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO and Noncommercial Ownership Reports, Incentive Auction, Radio Online Public File, and Comments on EAS and Regulatory Fees
While summer has just about arrived, FCC regulatory dates do not depart to the beach and leave the world behind. Instead, there are a host of filing deadlines this month. EEO Public Inspection file reports must, by June 1, be placed in the public inspection files of stations that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time employees if the stations are located in the following states: Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. Radio stations in Michigan and Ohio that are part of employment units with 11 or more full-time employees need to also file an FCC Mid-Term EEO Report on FCC Form 397 (see our article on the Form 397 here). TV stations with 5 or more employees also need to file that report if they are located in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia or the District of Columbia.
There are regular dates, too, for noncommercial stations in certain states when licensees must file their Biennial Ownership Reports on FCC Form 323E. While these reports will eventually be filed on December 1 of odd-numbered years, at the same time as Biennial Ownership Reports of commercial stations, at this point the new rules have not yet gone into effect (see our articles here and here). Thus, by June 1, the licensees of noncommercial radio stations in Michigan and Ohio and noncommercial TV stations in Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia must file their Biennial Ownership Reports.
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So What Happened to Those New Ownership Reports that Were Supposed to Be Filed on November 1?
Several months ago, we wrote of the FCC’s requirements for a new biennial Ownership Report for all commercial broadcast stations – to be filed by all stations in every state on November 1 of every other year – beginning with November 1 of this year. The FCC has even suspended the requirements for commercial stations to file reports that were due between the date that the rule was adopted and November 1 (reports being due on the even anniversaries of the filing of license renewal applications for stations in the state to which the station is licensed). Yet, here we are, less than a month from the supposed filing deadline for the new forms, and we’ve not seen any notice from the FCC that the new forms are ready to be used or any reminder for broadcasters to prepare and file those reports. What gives? Well, the Paperwork Reduction Act has struck again.
We’ve written about the Paperwork Reduction Act before, and its obligation that the FCC (or almost any other government agency) has to justify any new paperwork obligation that it is imposing on companies that it regulates – showing that the burden is as minimal as possible and serves a necessary regulatory process. Here, when the new ownership reports on FCC Form 323 were submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act, several parties, including the NAB, objected that information requested by the new form was unnecessarily complex, and in fact might violate other Federal laws (in particular Federal Privacy laws) as they required not only the filing of information about the companies who own radio stations with identification of their owners, but required that each and every attributable owner of a station (and actually including a few nonattributable owners who must be reported under the new reporting scheme), obtain an FCC "FRN" identification number that would be attached to that person and uniquely identify them in connection with each and every broadcast interest that they have. In most cases, that would require that the individual provide a social security number (and corporate entities would have to file Taxpayer ID numbers). While the FCC promised to keep those identification numbers private, security issues were not addressed and questions were raised why the Commission had to put so many individuals through so much of a burden when the FCC reports had not been adopted to track individual ownership interests, but instead to track the minority ownership of broadcast stations. Other issues with the new forms were also raised, as the new forms would have required many filings for stations held in independent corporations, but with a common parent company as parent companies cannot simply cross-reference multiple licensee companies that they own, but instead have to file multiple ownership reports for each licensee company in which they have an interest. In addition, ownership structures and other broadcast interests can no longer be identified by PDF attachments, but they instead needed to be separately entered into their own fields on the new form. The idea was to make the information searchable – but it would also result in vastly more time to prepare these reports.…
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Deadline for Comments on Noncommercial Filing Obligations Revised to June 26
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…
FCC Sets Comment Date on Noncommercial Filing Obligations and Suspends Ownership Report Filings Until November
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…
FCC to Require New Ownership Reports from all Commerical Broadcasters on November 1
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."…
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