Law firm renews quest to dodge SSN requirement


Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth attorneys have petitioned the FCC again, seeking to remove the requirement on the upcoming revised Ownership Report Form 323 to submit an FCC Registration Number, along with the requisite submission of a social security number in order to get the FRN if needed.

Wrote FHH, “Although the Commission has now recognized that its imposition of the requirement that all individuals holding attributable interests in broadcast licensees submit their social security numbers to the Commission has an impact under the Privacy Act, the Commission has not provided an explanation of why it needs this information, nor has it provided any opportunity to submit comments to the Commission on the need for this disclosure or on any alternatives with less impact on individuals’ privacy.”

FHH says that imposition of such a requirement requires a full “notice-and-comment rulemaking proceeding…to explore whether any such requirement can be justified in the public interest.”

The purpose for the introduction of the new Form 323 is to gather more complete ethnic and gender licensee data. Watchdog groups do not want any delay in implementation of the form, and at least one, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, has asked that the SSN requirement be dropped.

Blogging for FHH, attorney Harry Cole wrote, “And just what ‘attributable interest’ folks would be required to throw their SSNs into the FCC’s hopper? Um, that would be every officer and every director and everybody owning 5% or greater interests in both (a) corporate licensees and (b) corporations that in turn hold attributable interests in corporate licensees, as well as all non-insulated members of LLC’s, limited partnerships and the like which happen to be licensees or which happen to hold attributable interests in licensees. That’s a lot of SSNs right there.”

Cole concluded, “So our sense is that it’s going to be very difficult for the Commission to implement that requirement without taking a couple of giant steps backward and going through the rulemaking process which it seems to have overlooked the first time around. We shall see if the FCC agrees.”

The FCC has already delayed the due date for the forms, which have still not been officially released, from 12/15/09 to 1/11/10.