FCC to Rethink Reporting Requirements in Media Ownership Forms


Broadcasters will still have to file expanded ownership reports starting Nov. 1, but, at least for now, won't have to include certain non-attributable interests. Broadcasters argued the reporting of those interests could actually discourage investment in minority and women-owned outlets.

The Federal Communications Commission Tuesday said it has agreed to rethink requiring broadcasters to report certain non-attributable interests as part of the agency's changes to media ownership reporting forms, but has declined to rethink other portions. The National Association of Broadcasters had challenged the new media ownership reporting requirement changes the FCC made last April as part of then acting-chairman Michael Copps' seffort to tee up minority ownership issues.

The revised reporting form and increased reporting requirements were intended to better gauge the diversity of media ownership by "obtain[ing] an accurate, reliable, and comprehensive assessment of minority and female broadcast ownership in the United States."

In an order and notice of proposed rulemaking issued Tuesday, the commission denied in part NAB's petition to reconsider the decision, specifically that the new ownership forms with increased information be filed biennially. NAB had argued that requiring biennial updates on the forms would be a significant financial burden on some stations. The FCC said it was not persuaded. But it agreed to reconsider the requirement that it have broadcasters file the forms every two years, and to expunge those two requirements in the meantime.

The commission Tuesday deleted the portion of its prior decision that had required stations to report two categories of non-attributable ownership interests: minority interests in corporations with a single majority shareholder that would be attributable were it not for that shareholder, and interest that would be attributable but for an exemption for eligible entities.

NAB had a bunch of problems with those. It said that there had been no clear notice on the issue before it was adopted and that the record lacked evidence of potential harms or benefits as a result. It also said it was concerned that the reporting requirement would deter investment in the broadcast industry by increasing reporting burdens and mandating disclosure of information.

The FCC agreed to delete that requirement from the reporting form (form 323), but to propose those requirements again in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that invited new comment.

"We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the Commission and we are happy that they are willing to seek comment on these issues," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.