Diversity Group: FCC Must Settle Eligibility Issue

Minority Media & Telecommunications Council: Federal Communications Commission Must Determine Definition Before Changing Rules

The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, representing Diversity and Competition Supporters, told the Federal Communications Commission to delay the effective date of diversity initiatives, including many the MMTC recommended, until it comes up with a definition of who qualifies for the package.

The diversity proposals, scheduled to be voted on at the Dec. 18 meeting, are meant to benefit small businesses, including minorities and women, but coming up with a race-neutral classification that will achieve that end has been easier said than done.

"If the commission is unable to arrive at a procedure under which it will develop a definition before the new rules go into effect," the MMTC said, "it should postpone action on a minority-ownership package. It is better to have no package at all until the commission can agree upon a package that will neither confuse the public nor cause considerable harm to minority entrepreneurs."

According to the MMTC, the FCC's Diversity Committee met this week and formulated a plan for a "full file" review of eligible applicants that would take into account "the sizes and types of transactions for which various eligible entities could qualify, the persons who would evaluate applications, a pre-qualification option to facilitate transactional planning and the program’s adherence to constitutional expectations." The committee would create a subcommittee to oversee the process and seek outside experts.

"If the commission is otherwise ready to vote now on a package of substantive minority-ownership proposals," said David Honig, counsel to DCS, "it should make those proposals’ effective date the day the commission acts on a recommendation from the Diversity Committee for a full file review procedure (or, if the Diversity Committee is unable to develop such a procedure, such other recommendation that the committee may present). In this way, the commission would not need to delay its plan to approve a package of minority ownership proposals next week."

FCC chairman Kevin Martin plans to vote Dec. 18 on the diversity proposals, a proposal to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules and a localism report in an effort to wind up the media-ownership-rule review. The DCS comments, filed Tuesday, were in response to that proposed vote.