Back in early January, the FCC’s Media Bureau released an Order denying a number of Petitions for Reconsideration of an earlier Bureau Order that had adopted new requirements regarding FCC Registration Numbers (“FRNS”) and “Restricted Use FRNs” (“RUFRNS”) used in broadcasters’ biennial ownership reports. The Petitions had objected to application of certain new FRN and RUFRN requirements to non-commercial licensees. As we reported at the time, the Bureau’s decision drew swift and vocal criticism from Commissioner O’Rielly and Commissioner (now Chairman) Pai, who rebuked the Bureau for adopting an Order that, due to the change in administration, no longer was supported by a majority of Commissioners.
That January Bureau Order has now been reversed. In an extremely terse Order, the Bureau (now headed by a new Acting Chief appointed by new Chairman Pai), determined that the Petitions for Reconsideration dismissed and denied by the Bureau in January should, in fact, be handled at the Commission level. Accordingly, the Petitions have now been “returned to pending status” for full Commission consideration.
As we predicted in January, the saga of the Commission’s attempts to revise its ownership reporting requirements for non-commercial broadcasters is still unresolved. All indications, however, are that the current Commission may very well reach a different decision than did the Bureau in January and in its underlying 2016 Order. Check back here for updates.