Ownership Report Submissions Pushed Back


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With fall rapidly approaching, it is time to begin thinking about the preparation of the Biennial Ownership Report (FCC Form 323 ). In 2009, the Commission changed its long-time procedure of having commercial radio and television licensees file their reports on the anniversary of the license renewal application filing date. This change was adopted as part of the Commission’s Diversification of Media Ownership Proceeding, with the intention of establishing a common snap-shot date of the commercial media landscape.

Due to delays, first in adopting the report, and then further delays while it obtained regulatory approval and resolved whether individuals were required to obtain Federal Registration Numbers for the sole purpose of filing the Reports, the first filing deadline for the reports was July 8, 2010, with the information accurate as of Nov. 1, 2009. After the first round of filing the reports, the common filing date was to be Nov.1 of every odd year. The information to be contained in the report was to be current as of Oct. 1 of that year, which gave filers one month to prepare the reports.

On Aug. 23, 2011, the Commission released a public notice, announcing that it has pushed back the filing deadline for the Reports until Dec. 1, 2011. The public notice, adopted by the Commission on its own motion, noted that broadcasters with a large number of stations with multiple levels within the corporate structure may not have adequate time to prepare the ownership reports within the one-month period. The Commission’s procedures require each entity with an attributable interest in the station to file a separate ownership report, which means that broadcasters with a large number of stations, and multiple levels with their corporate structure, are required to file hundreds of Reports, all with information accurate as of Oct. 1, 2011. The public notice indicated that the delay in filing the 2011 Reports is a one-time extension, and that future deadlines were untouched.

One item the public notice did not discuss was the requirement of individuals with a reportable interest (including officers and directors with no direct ownership stake in the licensee) in the licensee to obtain a separate Federal Registration Number (FRN). The Commission’s FRN system requires individuals to submit their social security numbers (SSN) when obtaining an FRN, and during the last round, there was a significant push back from the broadcasting community against providing the FCC this information. After a trip to the U.S. Court of Appeals, the Commission modified its SSN requirement, and indicated that it would grant a one-time reprieve for the July 2009 Reports, and permit parties to obtain “special use” FRN’s if they objected to submitting their SSNs to the Commission.

Flash forward one year later, and the Commission’s current information regarding the upcoming deadline does not address whether the “special use” FRN option will be available for the 2011 filing deadline. In light of the Court’s skepticism regarding the need for individual SSNs to obtain a FRN in 2010, it is not clear whether the FCC will continue the practice of permitting “special use” FRNs, or whether it will require individuals to provide their SSNs to the Commission during the upcoming window.

As a reminder, all commercial AM, FM and Television licensees, along with low-power and Class A television licensees, must submit the report. Non-commercial educational broadcasters are submitting their reports (FCC Form 323-E) with their renewal of license applications. Television and FM translator licensees, along with low -power FM licensees, are not required to submit ownership reports.


Dateline

Sept. 16: All radio stations located in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands continue to run License Renewal Pre-Filing Announcements.

Oct. 1: All radio stations located in Alabama and Georgia being running License Renewal Pre-Filing Announcements, and continue running on Oct. 16, Nov. 1 and 16.

Oct. 3: Noncommercial television stations in Iowa and Missouri file their Biennial Ownership Report (FCC Form 323-E). Radio stations in Florida, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands file License Renewal Application and EEO Program Report. Noncommercial radio stations also file their Biennial Ownership Report (FCC 323-E). Begin running License Renewal Post-Filing Announcements.

Oct. 6: Radio stations in Florida, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands continue running License Renewal Post-Filing Announcements, continuing on Nov. 1 and 16.

Dec. 1: Commercial radio and television stations, including LPTV and Class A television stations, file Biennial Ownership Report (FCC Form 323).


Petro is a member of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC, Arlington, VA. Email: petro@fhhlaw.com.




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