FCC Prepares For Fall Ownership Reporting

Posted on August 31st, 2015 by

Last month, we noted the fast-approaching deadline for commercial stations to file biennial ownership reports, and pointed to the existing rule setting November 1 as that deadline. We also took the occasion to note that in 2011 and 2013, the FCC extended the deadline by a month, primarily because of how time-consuming the form can be for entities with complex ownership structures.

No FCC staffers subscribe to our newsletter, but someone there must have been reflecting on the fall ownership reporting also. In the past few weeks, the FCC has embarked on an ownership reporting preparation tear of sorts.

First, as it did in 2011 and 2013, the FCC extended the deadline for commercial stations to file biennial ownership reports to December 2, 2015. The information in the report must still include information current as of October 1, 2015, so that’s the first date that compliant reports can be filed. In case you’re counting, that’s 63 days to file the report or reports necessary for your station.

Second, the FCC announced that on September 22, 2015 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m., it will host an “information session” on biennial ownership report filing, complete with a staff overview of the Form 323, a filing demonstration, and some notes about coming filing errors. The session will be held at the FCC headquarters, but will also be streamed live, with open captioning. Further details can be found here.

Finally, about a week after announcing the information session, the FCC published a new notice, announcing a September 9, 2015 Media Bureau Workshop on how to access and use the ownership data collected by the FCC. The workshop will last all day, with sessions broken down into segments addressing everything from the basic data collected from station owners, to how to query and merge that data with other government data (i.e., US Census Data). Those wishing to participate are strongly encouraged to pre-register, following the instructions in the notice.

We believe the FCC’s ownership reporting “push” stems from earlier analysis revealing that a high percentage of the broadcast station ownership data collected had errors or was reported incorrectly. They certainly seem to be making every effort to change that trend, and to make third parties aware of how the data can be mined for specified information.