Advertising and Marketing

FCC Puts Broadcasters On Notice About Nondiscriminatory Advertising

Stations could lose licenses if ad contracts are not certified 3/22/2011 03:29:31 PM Eastern

The FCC Tuesday advised TV and radio stations that they must
certify that their ad contracts are nondiscriminatory or face losing their

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

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

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.


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