Broadcast Diversity Bill Introduced

Would restore tax certificate policy, create incubator program

A prominent House Democrat has proposed boosting diverse minority ownership in the broadcasting business.

The Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act, introduced by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), would boost data and reporting requirements for ownership diversity, restore the tax certificate program and establish a minority incubator program. That bill could have the best chance of traction since Republicans have also called for incubator programs and restoring the tax certificate policy that gave companies a tax break for selling media properties to diverse owners.

It is one of a package of bills introduced by Democratic members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee Wednesday.

Butterfield is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Even though it is a Democratic bill in a sea of Republicans—House and Senate majorities and a President—it could have a decent chance of passage. Hill Republicans have also called for incubator programs and restoring the tax certificate policy, that gave companies a tax break for selling media properties to diverse owners. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has also championed restoring the tax certificate and incubating new diverse owners.

"NAB thanks Rep. Butterfield for introducing legislation that would increase diversity in broadcast station ownership," said NAB executive VP Dennis Wharton of the bill's introduction as part of a package of connectivity bills introduced Wednesday. "Broadcasters have long supported market-based solutions that expand the diversity of voices at radio and television stations, and NAB has worked with partners from across industries to help women and minorities achieve their dreams of station ownership. We will continue our work with regulators, lawmakers and stakeholders on addressing this important issue and support swift passage of this legislation."

“Reinstating a tax certificate program and establishing a pilot incubator program are two of the proposals our office outlined in the recently released #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan," said Democratic FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn. "Transforming the dismal reality of the present ownership landscape, into a future that offers abundant opportunities for women and minorities will not be an easy task. Congressman Butterfield’s legislation is an important step towards greater broadcast ownership diversity and I look forward to working with him and all interested Members of Congress in pursuit of this shared goal.”