On April 8, 2009, the Commission adopted an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making (FNPRM) with the stated goal of improving the collection of minority and female broadcast ownership data. The changes adopted in the Order impose new reporting requirements and procedures on full-power radio stations and on full-and low-power television stations. The changes proposed in the FNPRM impact non-commercial educational (NCE) and low-power FM (LPFM) stations. The text of the Order and FNPRM have not yet been released.

Importantly, the Order does not affect the Commission's attribution rules, but it does now require certain non-attributable interests be reported on Form 323 (Ownership Report Form). The Order broadens the scope of reportable interests to include:

  • Minority interests in a corporation with a single majority shareholder; and
  • Interests in an eligible entity that would otherwise be attributable but for the operation of the higher equity/debt plus attribution threshold applicable to financial interests in eligible entities.

The Commission will also require low-power TV and Class A television stations to file Form 323. In addition, full-power commercial stations owned by individuals or partnerships of natural persons, which were previously exempt from ownership report filing requirements, must now file reports.

In the Order, the Commission has also set a uniform biennial filing date of November 1, 2009, and every two years thereafter for stations that file Form 323. Reported data must be current as of October 1, 2009. There will also be a modification of reporting procedures to allow ownership data to be electronically searchable and cross-referenced in the Commission's database. Lastly, the Order authorizes the Media Bureau to conduct random audits to ensure the accuracy of the reports.

The FNPRM seeks comment on potential ownership report changes affecting NCE and LPFM stations. Specifically, the Commission seeks input on whether NCE licensees should include gender and racial/ethnic information on Form 323-E. The Commission is also considering whether LPFM licensees and permittees, which are currently exempt from filing Form 323-E, should also file the report. The FNPRM also asks how ownership, including minority and/or female ownership, should be defined in the non-commercial context. Other considerations include whether the uniform biennial filing date adopted for commercial filers of Form 323 should be applied for NCE filers of Form 323-E, and how to minimize any potential reporting and recordkeeping burdens on NCE licensees.

A copy of the Commission's News Release can be found here.