License Assignment & Renewal Applications Affected by FCC Reinstatement of Repealed Ownership Rules

Posted on December 31st, 2019 by

Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC’s ownership rule changes were not supported by the record, and overturned the action.  The FCC asked all of the 3rd Circuit’s judges to reconsider that decision, but that request was denied.  Faced with the mandate that those rules be reinstated, the FCC took several actions on December 20th.

The first action was an Order reinstating the repealed rules.  The next two actions were public notices explaining how the reinstatement of the rules impacted license renewal applications for commercial stations and license assignment or transfer applications.  If your station is impacted, read the notices carefully in addition to the summary below.

Because the current license renewal application does not have a question regarding compliance with the multiple ownership rules, the FCC is requiring all pending commercial station license renewal applicants to file an amendment by January 19, 2020 certifying compliance with the ownership rules as reinstated.  For future renewal applications, commercial station applicants will use the application question about FCC violations during the preceding term to report either compliance or non-compliance with the rules, as reinstated.  The FCC plans to add a specific renewal application question about the ownership rules in coming months and will announce when it does.

For license assignments and transfers of control, pending applications filed on Form 314 or 315 must amend their application by adding, at Exhibit 1, a statement certifying compliance with the reinstated ownership rules.  If the applicant cannot certify compliance, an explanation must be provided. Until such an amendment is filed, the pending application will not be acted on.  For any new applications filed on Form 314 or 315, the FCC is seeking approval from OMB to restore previous ownership language, but pending that approval, all applicants must use the existing ownership language in the form to certify compliance or non-compliance will all of the ownership rules.

Despite taking these actions, the FCC has reserved the right to file a further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.