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Navigate electronic filing systems

Navigate electronic filing systems

Feb 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Harry Martin

The FCC has several electronic systems for filing applications and reports. Most applications must be filed electronically, including the renewals and ownership reports. The system used for broadcasting is the Consolidated Database System (CDBS), which is located on the FCC’s website: In addition, all licensees must have an FCC Registration Number (FRN), which can be obtained electronically through the Commission Registration System (CORES).

An FRN is obtained by using the licensee’s Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) (Social Security Number for individuals and Employer Identification Number for business entities). When a licensee obtains an FRN, a password is associated with that FRN. The password, usually set by the licensee, is used to confirm identification for electronic filing or fee payment. While the system for obtaining an FRN through CORES is easy to use, licensees sometimes are faced with unexplained password resets that make it impossible for them to access their FRN account or file electronically. There have also been cases where the FCC thoughtfully created an FRN for a licensee without their knowledge, with the wrong TIN and an unknown password. In many of these bonus FRNs, the contact person is also wrong.


Determine if you already have an FRN: If you paid regulatory fees this year, or have filed any applications or paid any fees since December 2001, you should have at least one FRN. In the CORES system, click on the search button and select advanced search. Type your TIN into the box marked TIN and search. If your TIN has been used to register an FRN, it will show up with this search. You can also call the FCC’s CORES help desk (877-480-3201, Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET).

If you have your FRN but do not have a password: You need a password reset. Call the help desk to have a new one assigned. This may take more than a day, so don’t wait until the last minute.

Maintain your FRN: Even if you have an FRN and password, you are not in the clear. Check to make sure the password still works by selecting the CORES link on the left side of the FCC’s homepage and selecting update on the CORES homepage. The computer will ask for your FRN and FRN password. If the computer pulls up your FRN registration, the password works. If the computer tells you the password is invalid, it needs to be reset. Make sure your information is accurate. Your address should be current and the contact person should be someone who still works for the licensee and can be reached at the telephone number listed on the FRN registration. This will streamline any corrections that may be needed in the future. All corrections of FRNs must be done through the CORES help desk and they will want to speak to the contact person whose name was provided when the FRN was originally obtained.


To file on CDBS: You need a CDBS account number and password and an FRN and its password to file on CDBS. If you plan on paying electronically, or if you would like the computer to generate your 159 forms, you also need the EIN or SSN number of the party who will be paying.

If you lose your account number or password: CDBS accounts are not unique (as are, by contract, FRN accounts). You can open as many as you like. If you lose your account number, you can always open a new account. The FCC’s help desk can sometimes find your account number, but you must have filed something from that account first. The FCC’s help desk can reset your password.

If CDBS is slow: Check the status of the system on the e-filing link at the top of the FCC’s home page. If you see a lightning bolt or a red X, wait a while and try again. If you see a green check, the system is supposed to be OK. If you still have problems, try filing early in the morning (before 10 a.m. ET) or later in the evening (after 7 p.m. ET).


April 1 is the deadline for filing license renewal applications for radio stations in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Biennial ownership reports must be filed with these renewals even though stations in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee filed such reports in 2003.

Also on April 1, biennial ownership reports must be filed, and annual EEO reports must be placed in the public files of stations in the following additional states: Texas, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC., Arlington, VA. E-mail[email protected].