FCC Puts Broadcasters On Notice About Nondiscriminatory Advertising
Stations could lose licenses if ad contracts are not certified
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/22/2011 3:29:31 PM
The FCC's Enforcement Bureau released the advisory and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said "[i]t should be clear from today's advisory that the Commission will vigorously enforce its rules against discrimination in advertising sales contracts."
The FCC Tuesday said stations must complete the certification in order to renew their station licenses, or alternately to explain how not doing so should not be an "impediment" to renewal.
The requirement is aimed at "no Spanish or urban" dictates in contracts, by which advertisers try to avoid urban or Latino stations.
That certification was required as part of FCC Media Ownership rule changes adopted by the FCC in December 2008 as part of the FCC's attempt under Chairman Kevin Martin to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross ownership ban.
The FCC took some heat last month from the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council for what it said was inaction on diversity issues, including enforcing advertising nondiscrimination rules passed in 2007. It was those rules that the 2008 certification requirement was meant to put some teeth into.
The FCC March 14 released a new license renewal form that included the certification, and the FCC wants broadcasters to be on notice that they must comply or give the reason why.
"The advisory puts everyone on notice that the Commission has no tolerance for this type of insidious discrimination," said Michele Ellison, chief of the Enforcement Bureau, in announcing the advisory. "Our leadership has asked us to bring renewed focus to these important broadcasting issues. We will work in close collaboration with the Media Bureau to give this new requirement meaning."
MMTC praised the FCC's advisory, and its designation of a senior FCC official as a compliance officer. "With strong enforcement, these actions by the Federal Communication Commission will finally bring to an end the practice of some advertisers' refusal to buy time on stations because they serve African American or Hispanic audiences," said MMTC President David Honig in a statement.
Don't be so quick to judge this action by the FCC. Our company has started to advertise on the local "Urban" radio station, and we have found that we are the only tanning salon in our area reaching out to this completely untapped market. Think what you may, but our government always knows best.
Deacon Blues - 3/24/2011 11:20:00 AM EDT
This is completely bogus and political correctness run amok. It is not within the stations' purview to determine what advertising runs on their airwaves. Rather, it is up to the advertisers who are BUYING the airtime to make that decision.
It's called target marketing. Why waste impressions and ad dollars against a target that is demonstrably not interested in buying whatever it is you have to sell?
It's not just Urban/Spanish stations; the pendulum swings the other way. Would the FCC require a product that markets to Blacks/Latinos to advertise on General Market stations in the name of diversity? Of course not.
This whole thing is completely specious. And, the burden should not be on the stations--it belongs to the advertisers and the agencies responsible for making the marketing decisions. The FCC needs to butt out.
Lina Worth - 3/23/2011 10:00:44 PM EDT
Since the FCC can't regulate advertisers and their agencies, they punish the broadcasters because they can.
It's all about intimidation, harassment, and, of course, fines and more fines. Chicago Rules.
Station owner - 3/23/2011 8:58:29 PM EDT
As an advertiser, don't I have the right to spend my advertising dollars on the formats I deem most appropriate? If I don't want a certain format, I don't buy the station.
DonMedia - 3/23/2011 4:06:00 PM EDT
Shouldn't the solution to advertising discrimination be that advertising agencies and advertisers must stop discriminating or be penalized if they don't? Why are we putting the burden on the broadcasters who are the victims here? This requires broadcasters to certify on their license renewals that such language is in their advertising contracts, and if they can't it could impact the broadcaster's license renewal. So now the broadcaster has to spend time and money to enforce a rule against the perpetrator and is penalized if they don't. Moreover, such provisions are only required in contracts with broadcasters and not with billboards or websites or newspapers. So what's to keep the advertiser or the agency from moving their ad dollars somewhere else? I'm sure there is a problem and a solution, but an FCC requirement that solely applies to broadcasters and only penalizes broadcasters is not the answer.
Frank Montero - 3/23/2011 2:27:01 PM EDT
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