FCC Wants Social Security Numbers From Station Owners/Investors
Tentatively concludes it needs to collect unique IDs for attributable broadcast interests to get better data on women and minorities
John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/4/2013 11:36:28 AM
The commission has been under pressure to get that better data from minority groups critical of FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's proposal to loosen/lift some cross-ownership rules.
Those unique identifiers the FCC says it needs to collect are usually either employer ID numbers or social security numbers (SSNs).
The FCC is seeking comment on that tentative conclusion in a notice of proposed rulemaking released this week on the modifications to its 323 ownership form, posting that release the same day comments are due on its most recent 323 form, which found little change in women and minority ownership.
The FCC says that it needs to collect the IDs from attributable interests to collect better and more reliable -- as well as searchable -- data on women and minority ownership, in part in response to a Third Circuit Court remand finding the FCC had not sufficiently justified diversity initiatives in its 2007 attempt to modify its ownership rules.
Broadcasters, including those represented by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, have complained about the privacy implications of having to supply social security numbers.
The FCC initially required the unique identifiers, but recognizing those privacy concerns, substituted a temporary, alternate ID that did not require SSNs. It now proposes to phase out that interim ID. It says those are not "a reliable means of tracing a reported interest holder to a unique individual and their use therefore undermine the purpose of our data collection effort, which seeks to accurately ascertain the nature and extent of minority and female ownership of broadcast properties."
Republican commissioner Robert McDowell expressed some reservations about the move, though he did not vote against it. In a statement explaining why he only concurred in the decision rather than voting for it, he said: "Although I am always in favor of seeking public comment and have long advocated the Commission's need to rely on comprehensive data during the decision-making process, I have concerns about the possible unintended consequences of requiring all attributable interest holders to divulge sensitive information, the burdens of collecting such information, and the potential to deter private investment."
Comments on the proposal will be due 30 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register; reply comments will be due 45 days after publication.
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