Changes in Selected Broadcast and Cable Television Reporting Requirements

RCED-89-24: Published: Dec 9, 1988. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) collection and use of broadcast and cable television ownership and financial data, focusing on: (1) FCC ownership reporting requirements; and (2) differences between data FCC currently collects and data it collected prior to 1981.

GAO found that FCC: (1) maintained broadcast ownership files on about 11,000 stations in order to oversee the financial health of the industry and monitor station ownership; (2) began to reduce or eliminate certain ownership and financial data reporting requirements, citing its desire to rely less on regulatory oversight and more on market forces to ensure that stations operated in the public interest; (3) in 1981, reduced its requirement that new station applicants certify their financial capability to operate without revenue, from 1 year to 3 months; (4) instituted a program of random requests for more information to ensure that new station applicants correctly certified their financial capability; (5) in 1982, eliminated its requirement that licensed stations annually submit a financial report; (6) in 1986, revised its ownership reporting requirements to reflect changes in its ownership attribution rules; (7) did not require cable operators to fill out some portions of their annual ownership forms, citing its lack of resources to maintain the information; and (8) planned to rely on alternative data sources when it received requests to take certain actions or review its decisions and regulations.

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