FCC Clarifies Form 323 Ownership Report Requirements

WASHINGTON: The FCC has clarified its requirements for the biennial TV station ownership reports due July 8, according to media attorney David Oxenford. Stations must turn in the commission’s new Form 323 by the due date with ownership information as of Nov. 1, 2009. The forms were originally due last November 1, but subsequently were revised.

“In the eight months since that date, many stations have changed ownership,” Oxenford wrote at Davis Wright Tremaine’s Broadcast Law Blog. “Is a new owner supposed to get the old owner to complete the form? What if the old owner is off somewhere on a cruise, or simply wants nothing more to do with the station?”

The FCC’s public notice on the due date provides some clarification, he said. Stations can request a waiver and explain why they’re unable to provide ownership information relevant to Nov. 1, 2009.

“This obligation to file the waiver request is on the current owner,” Oxenford writes. “Note that the FCC does not say that it will grant all such waiver requests, and it specifically excludes from these waiver situations ‘pro forma’ assignments or transfers, i.e. ones where the actual control has not changed but the legal entity holding that control has changed such as in a corporate reorganization where a station license is moved from a parent company to a subsidiary, or from a corporation to an LLC which is controlled by the same individual.”

In the meantime, a consortium of broadcasters has asked a federal court to delay the filing obligation until the FCC justifies it.

“Last week, the court asked the commission to justify its requirement that each person with an attributable interest in a station--i.e. anyone who would have to be reported on the Form 323--obtain an [FCC Registration Number] which can only be obtained by furnishing a Social Security number,” Oxenford said. “While this may indicate that the court is concerned about forcing every investor and officer and director of a broadcast company to provide this information, even if the court forbids the collection of that information, it is possible that the FCC would move forward anyway with the Form 323 filing obligation--just removing the FRN from the required filing.”

Consequently, he said, the deadline is not expected to be pushed back.

Oxenford’s complete post is at Davis Wright Tremaine’s Broadcast Law Blog.