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FCC Bends on Ownership Form SSNs

The FCC said Dec. 4 that its revised ownership reporting form--Form
323--would be available on its Website on or before Dec. 9, and that it would hold
a workshop at 2 p.m. on that date to walk filers through the new form. But it also
said it would allow filers to use an "interim" ID number that does not
require them to provide their Social Security number.

The commission is collecting more information on the form partly
as a way to better track minority ownership by requiring owners of smaller stakes
in broadcast properties to report them.

The FCC two weeks ago delayed the date for turning in the form
from Dec. 15 to Jan. 11, saying the online form was not quite ready. But it has
also received a petition to delay the date from law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth,
which argued that the form was changed without sufficient notice, and that the requirement
for owners of virtually any size stake in a broadcast property to provide those
Social Security numbers raised privacy issues. The FCC said the delay was procedural
and did not address that petition in its announcement of the extension.

In its public notice announcing the Dec. 9 date, the FCC also
said that it is allowing filers to use a Special Use FRN (FCC Registration Number)
instead of a Social Security number, but made clear it was a temporary fix and that
it expected eventually to get an SSN from them.

"As a rule, all filers must provide an FCC Registration
Number (FRN) for all persons and entities reported on Form 323. If, however, after
using diligent and good-faith efforts, you are unable to obtain an FRN for any specific
individual required to be reported on Form 323, the electronic form contains a mechanism
for generating an interim ‘Special Use FRN' solely for the purposes of completing
the form. The ‘Special Use FRN' may be used only to file a biennial ownership report
on FCC Form 323 and may not be used for any other purpose at the FCC."

It may be only a temporary fix, but it also gives the FCC some
wiggle room depending on how it rules on the Fletcher, Heald petition.