Pubmedia groups and stations insist FCC disclosure rules are ‘ill-founded’

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Four national public broadcasting organizations are continuing to press the FCC to reconsider changes to its ownership disclosure rules for stations and board members.

PBS, CPB, NPR and America’s Public Television Stations filed comments June 13 to support 64 licensees also opposing the mandates.

The organizations are speaking out against the FCC’s January decision to require commercial and noncommercial broadcasters to provide additional data on station leaders and board members. The FCC wants either names and full Social Security numbers or names, addresses, birth dates and the last four digits of Social Security numbers. The requirements are set to begin in December 2017.

The FCC contends the data will help it track diversity, such as how many women and people of color own stations. In their previous filing, stations said the rule could cause “serious harm” to noncommercial stations by making recruitment and retention of board members difficult, by creating “harmful friction” between stations and license holders “and, ultimately, by creating compliance difficulties for stations whose board members refuse to provide the required information.”

The four organizations also contend that the FCC has no statutory authority to require noncommercial licensees to disclose information that is “designed to serve policy goals relevant only to commercial stations.”

The FCC’s attempt to track “market entry barriers” for “entrepreneurs and other small businesses” interested in purchasing a station “makes little sense in the context of noncommercial educational broadcasting,” the filing noted.

The document also points out that CPB-eligible stations already report to CPB on station leadership race, ethnicity and gender.

The FCC’s decision to require the disclosures “is ill-founded and must be reconsidered,” the four national public broadcasters said in the filing.

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