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FCC Proposes Tighter Identification Rules for Commercial Broadcasters

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

By Robert Emeritz

In a Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released Jan. 3 [FCC 12-166], the Federal Communications Commission sought further comment on its requirement that licensees and other entities filing the Form 323 Commercial Broadcast Station Ownership Report provide an FCC Registration Number (FRN) generated by the CORES Registration System not only for themselves, but also for attributable entities and individuals reported on Form 323.1.

Obtaining a CORES FRN requires users to identify themselves uniquely, either by providing a taxpayer identification number or a social security number. The Commission deems the unique identification of entities and individuals filing and being reported on Form 323 “crucial to ensuring the accuracy and reliability of Form 323 data and the usefulness of those data to the Commission and other researchers.”

The Further Notice proposes to require all individual attributable interest holders to obtain a CORES FRN and to require all Form 323 filers to provide the CORES FRN for these individuals; seeks comment on whether to require the individual and entities holding non-attributable interests that would be reportable on the Form 323 under the proposal set forth in an earlier Notice to obtain a CORES FRN and to require all Form 323 filers to report these CORES FRNs; seeks comment on revising Form 323-E to include the same CORES FRN and attributable interest reporting obligations as those applicable to Form 323; and seeks comment on proposed revisions to the Form 323.

The Commission had allowed filers reluctant to obtain and disclose CORES FRNs to use “Special Use FRNs” obtainable without submitting a TIN or SSN through CORES. The Commission now proposes to eliminate the Special Use FRNs.

“Special Use FRNs do not afford the Commission a reliable means of tracing a reported interest holder to a unique individual and their use therefore undermines the purpose of our data collection effort, which seeks to accurately ascertain the nature and extent of minority and female ownership of broadcast properties. Without the ability to track an FRN to a unique individual, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to accurately cross-reference broadcast ownership interests,” the Commission explained.

The Notice did recognize the possibility of allowing Special Use FRNs in limited circumstances, seeking comment on whether to continue to allow filers to obtain Special Use FRNs solely in instances where, after reasonable and good faith efforts, they are unable to obtain a CORES FRN from an individual with reportable interests.

Comment was also solicited on privacy issues raised by the proposed new mandates.

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