A Vote On FCC’s NCE Owner Reports?


marsha-blackburnNewly appointed Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) hasn’t wasted anytime in setting the FCC and the regulation of the nation’s broadcast media on a whole new course.

Blackburn on Tuesday (1/17) introduced a bill to direct the Commission “to revoke certain changes to the ownership reporting requirements for noncommercial educational broadcast stations.”

As RBR + TVBR reported Jan. 4, Noncommercial radio and television stations will need to continue to provide a unique FCC Registration Number (FRN) generated by the Commission Registration System (CORES) for each attributable interest holder when filing FCC Form 323-E, the Ownership Report for Noncommercial Broadcast Stations.

The FCC in 2016 voted to overhaul their ownership requirements to improve minority ownership of broadcast stations. While most of the changes were “reasonable,” Blackburn argues, “the FCC imposed unnecessary and burdensome ownership rules on non-commercial educational broadcasters.”

Under these reporting requirements, noncommercial stations are required to include their board members as owners, raising privacy concerns, among other things, Blackburn says. The legislation she’s introducing would repeal the new reporting requirements for noncommercial station board members but will continue to require NCEs to report basic ownership information.

“Public broadcasters from across the country have expressed their reasonable privacy concerns with these onerous FCC requirements,” said Chairman Blackburn. “This commonsense bill would remove a useless barrier that would prevent qualified and dedicated people from serving as board members to these vital local broadcast stations.”

The decision raised the ire of the two Republican Commissioners — Ajit Pai (who has met with President-elect Trump and is widely expected to become FCC interim Chairman on Monday) and Michael O’Rielly. In fact, Pai and O’Rielly were not aware of the Media Bureau’s decision on the matter prior to reading it in the press.

Pai and O’Rielly were so incensed by the Media Bureau’s action that they encouraged public broadcasters to file an application for review so that the newly constituted Commission can consider revisiting the matter.

That may no longer be necessary, should Congress take up Blackburn’s bill.

— Adam R Jacobson