noncommercial broadcast station ownership information

The FCC has just announced that the Form 323 Biennial Ownership Reports for commercial broadcasters, due to be filed on or before November 1 of this year, will now be due instead by December 2. This is the third straight time that the obligation to file these reports has been extended, due to the complexity and confusion that surrounds the completion of the information that is required on the form. All commercial broadcasters, including LPTV licensees, need to file this form by the new deadline. As set forth in more detail below, at this point, this obligation does not extend to noncommercial educational licensees.

In 2009, the FCC adopted a requirement for modified Biennial Ownership Reports for all commercial stations, requiring that such reports be filed by all commercial broadcasters – including LPTV licensees, sole proprietors, general partnerships and other licensees who had previously been exempt from such obligations. The reports were to be filed on an expanded form that gathers information not just about who the owners of broadcast stations are, but also the race or ethnicity and gender of such owners. This information was to be gathered so that the FCC could better assess the minority ownership of broadcast stations.  This was to be used for purposes such as developing new ownership rules for the broadcast industry.  In fact, the information gathered from the first set of these forms was recently the subject of comment in the ongoing multiple ownership proceeding at the FCC (see our article here).

The forms were also supposed to be searchable by individual, so that the FCC or interested parties could easily cross-reference the broadcast interests of various individuals. To do so, however, required the gathering of new information, and required that every individual obtain an FCC Registration Number (an FRN), which required that they provide a Social Security or Taxpayer ID Number (for corporate owners of licensees) to the FCC. This obligation stirred much controversy. In addition, the format of the reporting of the other broadcast interests of individuals required much more time than had previous reports.  That complexity has not disappeared over time. 


Continue Reading Filing Deadline for FCC Form 323 Biennial Ownership Reports Extended Until December 2 – Why the Delay?

October is a very important month in the regulatory world, and broadcasters need to be aware of the regulatory deadlines that have already arisen this month, or which will come up in the next few days. This week, TV Newscheck published our latest summary of the state of many of the most significant legal issues facing TV broadcasters at the FCC and in Congress. In looking at the list, it is clear that this month is particularly important for broadcasters. For instance, this is the month that most TV stations outside of the Top 50 markets will first have to deal with the online public file – having to post their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and Children’s Television reports on their sites. The FCC this week issued a Public Notice of increased functionality of the online public file, partially to handle these obligations. Of course, radio stations also need to have their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists in their paper public file this week – as the lack of these lists is source of many of the fines that are issued during the license renewal process.

Also this month is the start of the obligation for Internet captioning of any programming that had previously aired with captions on TV. The obligation applies to any full TV program that was captioned when broadcast over-the-air after September 30 and is then posted in full on the Internet. The FCC just issued a reminder about this obligation, emphasizing its importance.


Continue Reading Early October Regulatory Requirements – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Children’s TV Reports, Captioning of Internet Programs, Noncommercial Ownership Reports, EEO and Renewal Obligations

The FCC Form 323 is now available for filing by all commercial broadcasters.  The Form must be submitted by December 1 of this year.  In 2009, the FCC adopted the requirement for a biennial ownership report for all commercial stations, to be filed by November 1 every other year, with information accurate as of October 1.  In 2009

How do you determine who is control of a noncommercial broadcaster governed by a self-perpetuating Board of Directors?  That question was addressed in a recent FCC decision, dismissing an application for a new noncommercial FM station that had not properly disclosed its owners on its FCC Form 340 application. In that case, the applicant had reported to the FCC

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