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Federal Communications Commission
1919 - M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

Report No. MM 98-5 MASS MEDIA ACTION April 2, 1998

(MM Docket 98-43 )

The FCC today proposed to (1) streamline broadcast application and licensing procedures, (2) reduce licensee administrative and filing requirements and (3) eliminate rules and procedures that no longer advance key regulatory objectives. The Commission also sought comment on whether to mandate electronic filing for broadcast application and reporting forms.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued today, the Commission said its streamlining goals are to preserve the public's ability to participate fully in the FCC broadcasting licensing process, reduce unwarranted applicant and licensee burdens and realize fully the benefits of the Mass Media Bureau's current electronic filing initiative.

These proposals are premised on the Commission's belief that it can prudently increase its reliance on applicant certifications. It said that this change in regulatory approach will be accompanied by a new, formal program of random audits to ensure compliance with the Commission's rules. The Commission emphasized its commitment to severely sanction those applicants that fall short of discharging their obligations of full disclosure and candor.

Although not required by statute, this initiative is undertaken in conjunction with the FCC's ongoing 1998 biennial regulatory review.

Streamlining actions taken today include:

  • Seeking comment on whether to require mandatory electronic filing of 16 key broadcast application and reporting forms, including assignment and transfer forms, and applications for new commercial stations and modifications to licensed facilities. The FCC said that it could maximize resource savings and efficiencies through mandatory electronic filing. The NPRM seeks comment on whether, if mandatory filing is adopted, the FCC should establish an exemption for small businesses or other qualifying entities and whether to phase-in mandatory electronic filing to minimize any disruption resulting from any new requirements requiring electronic filing.

  • A proposal to substantially revise and shorten forms that replace certain narrative exhibits with certifications. The proposed forms contain expanded instruction materials, including worksheets to assist applicants in certifying compliance with the Commission's rules and policies, and delete questions of marginal utility.

  • Proposals to eliminate the requirement that sales contracts be filed as part of assignment and transfer applications, substitute a certification that the agreement complies with the Commission's policies and require that applicants place copies of such agreements in the station's public inspection file.

  • A proposal to eliminate payment restrictions on the sale of unbuilt stations. This proposal covers both outstanding construction permits and permits obtained as a result of competing applicant settlements facilitated by Section 309(l)(3) of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

  • Proposals to eliminating several rules that placed unwarranted filing burdens on commercial new station and facility change applicants.

  • Proposals to make fundamental changes in the construction permit extension policy by increasing the authorized construction period provided in an initial construction permit to three years for all broadcasting facilities, including new facilities and modifications to licensed facilities, but substantially narrowing the grounds for construction permit extensions.

  • A proposal to consider options to expedite the processing of pro forma assignment and transfer applications, consistent with statutory restrictions. The Notice invites comment as to whether the Communications Act bars the Commission from eliminating prior consent requirements for certain pro forma transfers and assignments which are routinely granted by the Commission.

  • A proposal to conform commercial and noncommercial station filing requirements to reduce the requirement for filings of ownership reports to only when stations file their license renewal applications, at the four-year mid-point of each license term, and within 30 days of the consummation of an approved transfer or sale.

Action by the Commission April 2, 1998, by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 98- 57). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Furchtgott-Roth, Powell and Tristani, with Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth issuing a separate statement.

- FCC -

News Media Contact: David Fiske (202) 418-0513
Mass Media Bureau Contact: Peter Doyle (202) 418-2780

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Separate Statement of Commissioner Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth

In re: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

1998 Biennial Regulatory Review -- Streamlining of Mass Media Applications, Rules, and Processes

I support adoption of this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. To my mind, any reduction in paperwork obligations or simplification of our procedural rules for regulated entities -- or "streamlining" -- is always a plus. To that extent, this item is good policy and I am all for it.

This item should not, however, be mistaken for compliance with section 11 of the Communications Act.

First of all, section 11 requires a biennial review of all regulations that govern the operations of "any provider of telecommunications service." 47 U.S.C. section 161(a)(1). It does not by its terms apply to regulations governing those in the broadcasting and cable business, unless they also provide telecommunications service. I therefore understand this mass media item to be premised not on the biennial review requirement of section 11 (notwithstanding the caption, which suggests otherwise) but on our general authority to change our rules when appropriate under section 4(i), id. section 154(i), and related provisions of the Communications Act.(1)

Second, this item focuses mainly, as do some "pure" section 11 items that we have issued,(2) on procedural rules governing filings at the Commission as opposed to substantive rules that limit what companies can do in the marketplace, e.g., regulations that restrict market entry or limit market share. As stated above, it is certainly important that in the course of the Biennial Review we evaluate our procedural rules and modify or eliminate them if necessary. But section 11 requires us to look at both procedural and substantive rules and make an affirmative finding of their continued necessity.

If all we do is "streamline" certain procedures at the Commission, without also examining all pertinent substantive rules and making the statutorily-required determinations of necessity, we will fail to meet the express directive of section 11.

As I have previously explained, I question whether the FCC is prepared to meet its statutory obligation to review all of the regulations covered by section 11 in 1998. See generally 1998 Biennial Regulatory Review -- Review of Computer III and ONA Safeguards and Requirements, 12 FCC Rcd __ (Jan. 29, 1998). To my knowledge, the FCC has no plans to review affirmatively all regulations applicable to the operations or activities of telecommunications providers and to make specific findings as to their continued necessity. Nor has the Commission issued general principles to guide our "public interest" analysis and decisionmaking process across the wide range of FCC regulations.

We should not let this item, which does not relate to telecommunications rules and focuses almost exclusively on procedural matters, or any other limited Commission analysis be mistaken for full compliance with Section 11.

* * * * * * *

1. Section 202(h) mandates a review of certain broadcast rules as a part of the section 11 Biennial Review, but only of "ownership" rules, which does not include the regulations at issue here.

2. By this I mean items regarding rules applicable to telecommunications service providers.