FCC Bends On Ownership Form Social Security Numbers

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The FCC said Friday its revised ownership reporting form (323) would be available on its Web site on or before Dec. 9, and that it would hold a workshop at 2 p.m. on that date to walk filers through the new form. The commission also said it would allow filers to use an "interim" ID number that does not require them to proviide their social security number.

The agency is collecting more information on the form partly as a way to better track minority ownership by requiring owners of smaller stakes in broadcast properties to report them.

The FCC two weeks ago delayed the date for turning in the form from Dec. 15 to Jan. 11, saying the online form was not quite ready. But it has also received a petition to delay the date from law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, which argued that the form was changed without sufficient notice, and that to include the requirement for owners of virtually any size stake in a broadcast property to provide those Social Security numbers raised privacy issues. The FCC said the delay was procedural and did not address that petition in its announcement of the extension.

In its public notice announcing the Dec. 9 date, the FCC also said that it is allowing filers to use a Special Use FRN (FCC Registration Number) instead of a Social Security number, but made clear it was a temporary fix and that it expected eventually to get an SSN from them.

"As a rule, all filers must provide an FCC Registration Number (FRN) for all persons and entities reported on Form 323. If, however, after using diligent and good-faith efforts, you are unable to obtain an FRN for any specific individual required to be reported on Form 323, the electronic form contains a mechanism for generating an interim "Special Use FRN" solely for the purposes of completing the form. The "Special Use FRN" may be used only to file a biennial ownership report on FCC Form 323 and may not be used for any other purpose at the FCC."

It may be only a temporary fix, but it also gives the FCC some wiggle room depending on how it rules on the Fletcher Heald & Hildreth petition.

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