Court Sides With FCC on Ownership Form Dispute
July 8 deadline for broadcasters to file new commercial ownership Form 323
remained intact this week, after a federal appeals court sided with the Federal
Communications Commission in a dispute with stations over the new form.
The forms have been controversial because all owners with an attributable
interest in a facility must provide the commission their FCC Registration
Numbers; and getting those requires a Social Security number. Law firm
Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth represented several state associations and
broadcasters who said the new requirement was an invasion of privacy.
The D.C. Circuit
the FHH petition, because now the FCC says no individual attributable
interest holder will be required to submit a Social Security number in order to
obtain an FRN. The court stated the petitioners had not demonstrated a “clear
and indisputable” right to relief.
In a related case, the commission denied a request from Window to the World
Communications for WFMT-FM in Chicago to file a different ownership form. The
broadcaster asked if it could file noncommercial Form 323-E, which does not
require filers to provide Social Security number-based FRNs. Window to the
World argued that it’s a non-profit entity and requiring its board members to
provide their SSNs is a burden.
The FCC countered that though Window to the World is a non-profit entity, WFMT
is actually a commercial station; and filing the commercial form did not seem
to be a burden in the past for the station, the agency said in its decision. It
reminded WFMT the Form 323 includes a way for a filer to generate a so-called
“Special Use” FRN for any board members “unwilling to provide information
necessary to obtain an FRN,” so a station may complete the form.
The agency believes waiving WFMT’s filing requirement would undermine the
reason it’s changing the ownership form--to get more accurate female and
minority ownership data.-- from