New “information collection” requirements for AM/FM change-of-community applications to undergo Paperwork Reduction Act review before taking effect

A couple of weeks ago we described the FCC’s revised approach to proposed changes in the communities of AM and FM stations and allotments. As we noted, the Commission’s Second Report and Order (Second R&O) indicated that that new approach would become effective upon publication of the Second R&O in the Federal Register. But that estimation seemed a bit at odds with reality – or, more specifically, with the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), which requires that most new “information collections” be run past the Office of Management and Budget. (We pointed that out, too.)

And sure enough, the Commission has now signaled that the new change-of-community showings do indeed need to be approved by OMB. This may slow the implementation of the revised policies, if only because OMB approval normally adds at least 90 days to the process. Since the new policies will apply to all change-of-community applications pending as of the release of the Second R&O (i.e., March 3, 2011), that delay could be an annoyance for folks whose applications may be stuck in the queue. It remains to be seen whether the Commission’s staff will be inclined to find some way to implement the new standards any earlier.

Often, when the FCC imposes a new “information collection”, it involves a new, or revised, application form. Here the Commission is asking for comments on the instructions to Form 301, even though it has not changed any questions on the form or added any new questions. According to the latest notice, the revised form will lay out, in updated instructions, the certification requirements adopted in the Second R&O (and described in some detail in our earlier post here).

Anyone wishing to comment on the revised application requirements may do so until May 23, 2011. Comments should be limited to the following:

  • whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Commission, including whether the information shall have practical utility;
  • the accuracy of the Commission’s burden estimate (The Commission estimates that it will require somewhere between 1-6.25 hours, on average, to address the new requirements);
  • ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected;
  • ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on the respondents, including the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology, and
  • ways to further reduce the information collection burden on small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees.

Once the 60-day FCC comment period wraps up, the Commission will refer the matter to OMB, which will provide interested parties an additional 30-day comment period. Based on that time line, it’s likely that the new requirements won’t become effective until mid- to late summer, at the earliest.