The FCC today released an Order setting December 2 as the date for the filing of FCC Form 323 Ownership Reports by commercial broadcast stations. All commercial broadcasters must submit this report. While the report is technically supposed to be filed by November 1 every other year, that date has routinely been extended as the FCC form is far more complicated to complete for many licensees than are the normal ownership reports that are filed after station purchases and sales (see for instance, this article two years ago).
These reports require information as to each owner of a broadcast company as of October 1, 2015. A unique identifier for each individual named in a report is also required as the FCC is looking to make all ownership information searchable by individual, so that interested persons can determine the interlocking broadcast interests of owners of broadcast stations. As we wrote here, the FCC has recently proposed a way to identify individuals who don’t want their social security numbers to be used to obtain the necessary FCC identification number – though that procedure has not yet been adopted but could quite well be acted on before the filing date. In addition, the form requires that the race, ethnicity and gender of individual owners be reported, so that minority ownership can be assessed and tracked by the FCC. To make all individuals and their interests searchable, the forms require separate fields for different blocks of information including other broadcasts interests of individual owners – making the form complex to complete for companies with multiple owners who have multiple broadcast interests. These reports need to be filed electronically, and can take time to complete, so don’t wait to start work on the biennial report.
In the past, companies that had no change in the last two years could get by without filing anything more than a “certification of no change.” That is not an option anymore, but the information from the last report may be “pre-filled” by the electronic filing system into the new report, making it easier to complete. These reports also need to be filed by licensees that are individuals or general partnerships (who at one time were exempt), and by LPTV licensees as well.
Noncommercial licensees are, at least for now, not covered by this requirement (see our articles here and here on the issues about noncommercial ownership reporting process). Commercial licensees – get ready to file by December 2! As failing to file these reports on a timely basis can result in a license renewal fine, be ready to file by December 2.