This News Release: Text | WordPerfect
Statements: Ness & Tristani | Furchgott-Roth
FCC 98-281: Zip Version - 629 KB | Acrobat Version - 281 pages, 1 MB

fcclogo NEWS

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

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 98-15 MASS MEDIA ACTION October 22 1998

(MM Dockets 98-43, 91-140, 94-149)

The FCC today adopted new procedures to streamline the radio and television application process by adopting electronic filing for 15 key application and reporting forms; substituting certifications for narrative exhibit submissions; requiring ownership reports to be filed every two years instead of annually; and revising requirements for extending the construction periods of broadcast stations and selling unbuilt construction permits.

In a Report and Order, the Commission said its goals are to: (1) create a customer-friendly environment; (2) promote more efficient and speedy Commission operations; (3) reduce regulatory burdens on applicants, permittees and licensees; and (4) further the Commission's long-standing commitment to utilizing new information technologies to enhance service to the public. Although not required by statute, these streamlining actions were undertaken in conjunction with the 1998 biennial regulatory review.

Electronic filing will become mandatory, on a form-by-form basis, six months after each of the 15 major broadcast forms becomes available for filing electronically. The Commission expects the 15 broadcast forms to be available for electronic filing no earlier than March 1999. The Children's Television Programming Report, which has been available for electronic submission since Spring 1997, must be filed electronically as of January 10, 1999. Electronic forms will include fee submission information. The Commission will address electronic filing security concerns by utilizing applicant-selected passwords and internally-generated unique account numbers. The Commission said electronic filing should aid applicants in submitting correct applications, speed the processing of their applications, facilitate the public's ability to view broadcast applications, and reduce resource burdens on the Commission.

To facilitate the filing and processing of electronically submitted applications, the Commission substantially revised key broadcast forms by replacing narrative exhibits with the use of certifications. This approach will reduce the amount of information applicants must submit. The Commission will supplement the revised forms with detailed worksheets and instructions to explain processing standards and rule interpretations to help ensure that applicants certify accurately.

The Commission also outlined a strong enforcement program of random audits of up to 5% of pre-grant and up to 5% of post-grant applications, and significant serious sanctions for applicants that fail to comply with Commission rules.

This formal audit program will check streamlined broadcast applications for the reliability of applicants' certifications and provide additional incentives for applicants to be accurate in their representations and certifications. The Commission said it would increase the number of pre-or post-grant audits to enhance the program's effectiveness, if necessary.

The FCC noted it has historically received significant enforcement assistance from the public, including competitors, and that petitions to deny and informal objections will remain as important adjuncts to audits. It said implementation of electronic filing should facilitate the public's ability to view broadcast applications. In this regard, the Commission noted that licensees will still be required to file copies of sales agreements and contracts, which will continue to be publicly available in the FCC's public reference rooms, as well as in a stations' own public file. If the parties to a transaction have an oral agreement, a written description of its material terms must be submitted with the application. The Commission imposed this requirement to ensure public access to information and meaningful public oversight.

The Commission modified the Annual Ownership Report form to include a new section requiring individuals or entities having attributable interests to identify their race or ethnicity and gender. This modification will allow the Commission to determine accurately the current state of minority and female ownership of broadcast facilities and to assess the need for measures designed to fulfill the statutory mandate to promote opportunities for small businesses and businesses owned by women and minorities in the broadcasting industry. Licensees should file Ownership Reports when they file their stations' license renewal applications and every two years thereafter, instead of annually. They must also file ownership reports within 30 days of consummating authorized assignments or transfers of licenses.

The Commission eliminated the existing rule prohibiting for-profit sales of unbuilt stations based on its conclusion that the rule is no longer necessary to maintain the integrity of the licensing process, particularly since auctions will soon replace comparative hearing processes to resolve mutually exclusive applications. The Commission said that its concern with spectrum speculation in an auction environment is minimal where there are strict bidding and payment requirements and where the winning bidder has paid fair market value for an authorization.

The Commission also extended the construction permit time period to 3 years for all services, replacing the current limits of 2 years for construction of a full-power TV station and 18 months for other broadcast facilities. This new uniform period will provide all permittees an adequate and realistic time to construct their facilities and will result in a substantial reduction in requests for additional time to construct.

Action by the Commission October 22, 1998, by Report and Order (FCC 98-281). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Powell and Tristani, with Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth approving in part and dissenting in part and Commissioners Ness and Tristani issuing a joint statement and Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth issuing a separate statement.

- FCC -

News Media Contact: David Fiske (202) 418-0513
Mass Media Bureau Contact: Lisa Scanlan (202) 418-2720, Jerianne Timmerman (202) 418-1600