FCC changing ownership reporting requirements


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A new FCC ownership reporting system goes into effect Nov. 1, 2009. The current plan is for all commercial licensees — along with a variety of broadcast owners and investors previously exempt from any such filing — to file new reports on that date. The filing of biennial ownership reports for commercial stations on June 1, Aug. 1 and Oct. 1 has been suspended. Noncommercial educational licensees must still file the usual biennial reports on those dates.

The shift in reporting requirements, and a change to new reporting forms, arises from concern about the relatively low percentages of minority individuals and females among the ranks of broadcast owners.

The following changes have been made:

  • All commercial licensees must file, even previously exempt stations owned by one person or a partnership of natural persons.
  • LPTV stations and Class A television stations are no longer exempt from reporting.
  • All affected entities will file on the same date, every two years, beginning Nov. 1, 2009.
  • The data reported must be accurate as of Oct.1 of the same year in which the report is filed.
  • Equity owners whose reporting exemption was based on the single majority owner rule must now report their interests.
  • Equity owners whose interests would be attributable but for the higher EDP threshold for investors in minority-controlled companies (generally 50 percent vs. 33 percent) will not be exempt from reporting.
  • Investors and affected lenders must not only report the names of the licensees and the stations owned by those licensees as at present, they must also provide the FCC-issued Federal Registration Number (FRN) for each and every licensee in which they have a reportable interest.
  • The FCC will begin random audits to verify what is reported.
  • Information will no longer be accepted in uploaded attachments to the ownership report form. Everything must be submitted on the ownership reporting form itself.

    Implementation of this new regulatory scheme is dependent on speedy adoption of a new Form 323 and its approval by the Office of Management and Budget. It is likely that the Nov. 1 start date will have to be postponed if the form is not ready in time.

    The Commission also has separately proposed revisions to the ownership report form (Form 323-E) for noncommercial educational (NCE) radio and TV stations to include information about the ethnic, racial and gender makeup of their governing bodies. In the meantime, as noted above, NCE licensees must continue to file their ownership reports biennially on the anniversaries of their renewal filing dates. The Commission is considering imposing ownership reporting obligations on LPFM licensees for the first time since that service was created.


    Dateline

    For noncommercial stations, in the following locations only, the biennial ownership report deadline is Aug. 1: California, North Carolina and South Carolina.

    Aug. 1 is the deadline for radio stations in California with more than 10 full-time employees to electronically file their Broadcast EEO Mid-Term Reports (Form 397) with the FCC.

    Aug.1 is the deadline for radio stations licensed in the following states to place their annual EEO Reports in their public files: California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

    Nov. 1 is the deadline for submission of biennial ownership reports for commercial radio stations in all states and territories.


    Martin is a member of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC, Arlington, Virginia. E-mail: martin@fhhlaw.com




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