FCC Ownership Forms Unclear on SSN Requirement
October 5, 2011
WASHINGTON: Broadcast attorney Harry Cole says the FCC left
out important information in a public notice about station ownership reports--namely,
that you don’t have to provide a Social Security number if you prefer not to. That
question has been an issue of contention and legal wrangling.
Cole, a communications attorney at Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth (and an RW
contributor), commented on his blog after the Media Bureau reminded commercial
broadcasters that they must file their latest Form 323 between now and Dec. 1.
He says the online form, instructions and FAQ fail to tell respondents that
they are not required to provide SSN-based registration numbers if they object
to the submission of their Social Security Numbers.
Nor, he says, does the bureau acknowledge that “no individual attributable
interest holder will be required to submit Social Security number to obtain an
FRN” in order to respond to Form 323--which, he says, the FCC and a federal
appeals court worked out more than a year ago.
He also criticized language used in a “pop-up” message on the form for adding
to confusion. Cole provided a short history of the controversy over whether
people with attributable ownership interest in a station need to be identified
by an FCC Registration Number based on their SSN.
“According to the court, ‘no individual attributable interest holder will be
required to submit Social Security number to obtain an FRN’ in order to respond
to Form 323,” he wrote, and continued: “We think that all Form 323 filers are
entitled to know that. For some reason, the commission seems unenthusiastic
about that prospect.
“Unfortunately, the commission appears still to be trying to shore up the
multiple weaknesses in its Form 323 in a piecemeal, less-than-public way,” Cole
opined, saying the history of Form 323 since 2009 “has not been a particularly
happy one, and the most recent developments don’t suggest much improvement.”
“Form 323: The Fun Begins Again”
~ from Radio World