FCC Suspends Ownership Filing Form


The Federal Communications Commission has decided to suspend filing of its revised media ownership form (323) until further notice.

The commission 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.

In a decision issued Dec. 23, the commission said that the Jan. 11 filing deadline would be suspended, and that even when the online form wa available again (it had been online since Dec. 9), it would give broadcasters another 90 days from that date to file the forms.

The information will still have to be current as of Nov. 1, 2009.

The commission was responding to a Dec. 18 request from broadcasters who asked for the extension as well as changes to the form.

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 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.

Now, the FCC has decided to take a longer look at fixes to the form.

"We find that good cause has been shown and that it would serve the public interest to suspend the current January 11, 2010 filing deadline," the commission said Wednesday. "We will temporarily suspend the ability to start a new biennial Form 323 during this interim suspension period but will allow filers to complete and file forms that they have already started should they wish to do so. This temporary suspension will permit us to investigate what changes can be made to the form to reduce the time required to complete it and to lessen any unanticipated burdens in this regard without undermining the completeness, quality, usefulness, and aggregability of the data. Once these changes have been made, we will again enable new biennial filings and will release a Public Notice with a new extended filing deadline. "