– The broadcast lobby stuck to its guns on how station ownership
should be reported to regulators in comments filed with the Federal
Communications Commission. The National Association of Broadcasters held that
investors with no voting rights should not be included in ownership reports.
Such non-attributable owners are not now counted, but the Federal
Communications Commission has proposed including them as a way to further
analyze the level of TV station ownership by ethnic minorities and women. The
NAB contends that doing so would “fail to yield useful information about
minority and female ownership, while at the same time imposing burdens on and
deterring investment in broadcasting.”
The NAB and the FCC have been down this road before. The issue goes to FCC Form
323, used by the commission to collect station ownership data every six months.
The commission adopted non-attributable ownership reporting 2009, and then
partially granted an NAB petition to eliminate it. The result was an exemption
for shareholders who hold an interest in a company where one shareholder
controls more than 50 percent of outstanding voting stock.
The proposal again gained momentum after a report
released last November indicated women controlled less than 7 percent of the
nation’s 1,328 full-power TV stations, while Hispanics and Latinos owned less
than 3 percent, and other ethnic minorities collectively controlled 2.2
percent—gender-ethnic overlap excluded. The report raised concern on Capitol
Hill, deep-sixing what was reported to be a planned vote by the commission in
December to relax the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule.
The NAB claims that a non-attributable ownership reporting requirement on Form
323 would be costly and cumbersome.
“To complete the reports properly, a licensee must survey all of the
attributable interest holders on their ownership of other communications
outlets, identify familial relationships among those with attributable
interests, and confirm that any new media interests held by investors comply
with relevant ownership rules,” the NAB filing states. “For each attributable
interest holder, the positional interest, ownership share—i.e., class and
percentage of assets, including equity and debt, voting rights or other rights
to control—name, address, citizenship, ethnicity, race, and gender must be
verified and updated. Although the Commission estimates that ownership reports
take only 2.5 - 4.5 hours to complete, it can in fact take many more hours just
to perform the due diligence necessary to make the requisite certifications on
the forms and to fully describe the ownership structure.”
If ownership entities are not “natural persons,” the filing continues, a
separate report must be completed.
“Investors may well select investment vehicles that do not involve extensive
reporting obligations over other vehicles with such additional obligations,”
the NAB said.