30 Days Left for 2017 Biennial Ownership Reports

Posted on January 31st, 2018 by

March 2, 2018 is the deadline for all broadcast stations (except low power FM stations or FM translator-only licensees) to file their 2017 biennial ownership reports. No, the 3-day government shutdown did not add additional time to the original 90 day “window” for getting these reports on file. That’s because the FCC’s website never shut down.

The 2017 biennial ownership reports are the first to be filed in the FCC’s Licensing Management System (LMS), and it has been known to get a little fickle from time to time. By fickle, we mean slowing down or tossing you out for no apparent reason. So if you plan on filing the form yourself, don’t wait until the last day.

Here’s another interesting wrinkle. For TV stations, and those radio stations that have already transitioned to the online public inspection file, the electronically filed ownership report is – for some unknown reason – not automatically populating in the online public file after it is filed in LMS. For other electronically filed applications or reports, the FCC automatically uploads those to station online public inspection files in about a day or so. We don’t know why the FCC is not auto-populating the 2017 filed ownership reports to station public files, but we have a suspicion that they’re going to wait until the end of the window to do it.

In the meantime, what’s a station supposed to do? The rule requires that the most recent complete ownership report be in the public file. So if a station files a new ownership report, that’s the most recent one, and it belongs in the public file. Are stations supposed to scan a copy of the filed ownership report into the file to avoid the “wrath” of the FCC, or just wait until the FCC auto-populates the report in the file? We don’t have an opinion on which way to go, but believe there are strong arguments that stations are compliant no matter which approach they chose to satisfy the requirement – either scanning/uploading the new one and toggling “out” all prior ownership reports, or waiting until March 2 for the new one to auto-populate, and in the meantime, leaving the most recent prior report toggled “on” in the online file.

What about those radio stations not yet transitioned to the online public file? Simply print and put a copy of your new ownership report in the public file, removing all prior reports at that time.