Commercial Station Biennial Ownership Reporting This Fall

Posted on July 30th, 2015 by

Every two years, the FCC requires all commercial broadcast stations (and companies that hold attributable ownership interests) to file biennial ownership reports so the FCC can keep track of who owns and controls broadcast stations. The reporting obligation occurs in odd years, which means commercial broadcast stations need to make sure this is on their “to do” lists this fall.

So when exactly is are the reports due? Well, the rule says that the deadline for commercial stations to file these reports is November 1. But in 2011 and 2013, for a number of reasons, the FCC extended the deadline to December 1 (2011) and December 2 (2013). Sometimes, the information needed for attributable entities takes a while to gather and that translates into stations or groups having a hard time getting everything filed by the deadline. While we don’t rule out the possibility of an extension this year, stations should prepare for the November 1, 2015 deadline.

The ownership information reported must be current as of October 1, 2015, so ostensibly, stations can file their reports up to thirty days early. Forms can even be loaded and worked on prior to that date. Also, ownership interests are not the only thing reported on the form – a list of still current contracts required to be on file with the FCC is also required. Commencement and expiration dates for those contracts are needed, as is the name of the party with whom the station has contracted.

Here’s one interesting wrinkle that we learned about in 2013. Back in the days before electronic filing of this report was required, if no ownership information had changed for a station since its last ownership report, the station could simply certify to the FCC in writing that the information on the last report was still accurate. Easy enough – just mail in a letter.

But with the advent of online filing, the FCC changed its rule to require that such stations revalidate and electronically submit its previously filed ownership report. Sounds innocuous enough, except that the earlier written certification process did not involve the submission of the form and was therefore fee-exempt. Not so for the “revalidate and electronically submit” approach. The FCC requires that such submissions remit the filing fee for the form because the action actually submits a “new” report. So be ready to remit your $65.00.

The only silver lining? All reports by entities other than the station licensee are fee-exempt.