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Blackburn Takes Aim at FCC Noncom Disclosure Decision

Bill would revoke portions of larger item adopted last January

New Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has introduced a bill that would require the FCC to roll back a decision requiring board members of noncommercial broadcast outlets to provide ownership information to the commission, part of a larger decision on broadcast ownership disclosures.

The bill has yet to get a name or bill number, but it has the outgoing Democratic FCC’s number. It would require the FCC to revoke parts, but not all of an FCC decision, a targeted approach Congressional Republicans could use to tailor already-passed FCC regulations.

The FCC Media Bureau last week denied a request by noncommercial broadcast groups to revisit its decision.

A phalanx of noncommercial broadcasting entities asked the FCC to reconsider and reverse the January 2016 order that was billed as improving the data collected from broadcasters to help the commission analyze ownership and diversity issues.

America’s Public Television Stations, PBS, CPB and NPR all said the FCC’s decision to require members of noncommercial TV (and radio) governing boards to disclose “highly sensitive personal information” is “ill-founded and must be reconsidered.”

“Public broadcasters from across the country have expressed their reasonable privacy concerns with these onerous FCC requirements,” said Blackburn in a statement. “This commonsense bill would remove a useless barrier that would prevent qualified and dedicated people from serving as board members to these vital local broadcast stations.”

“America’s Public Television Stations are most grateful to House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee for her introduction of legislation to roll back a recent FCC Media Bureau order requiring non-commercial educational television stations to provide ‘ownership’ information to the commission,” said APTS president Patrick Butler.

“We strongly support the goal of ensuring that diverse viewpoints and perspectives are available to the American people over the broadcast airwaves,” he said. “This is the mandate of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and one we are proud to fulfill every day.”

“But the proposed ‘ownership’ reporting requirements simply do not recognize or reflect the unique governance structure and organization of public broadcasting licensees.”

“I welcome Chairman Blackburn’s new legislation highlighting and addressing the commission’s unnecessary reporting demands on public broadcasters and their board members,” said FCC Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who opposed the FCC Media Bureau’s denial, and along with senior Republican Ajit Pai called on noncoms to petition the FCC to review that decision after the Republicans took over after Jan. 20. “This is one of many FCC-created problems that I hope we can solve quickly this year, either through legislation or our own review.”

Broadcasting & Cable