FCC Diversity Committee Recommends Commission Renew Adarand Studies

Reports examine market entry barriers to women, minorities

The FCC's Diversity Committee has recommended that the commission renew its Adarand studies examining market entry barriers to women and minorities, and to make sure that the peer-reviewed studies have sufficient funding so that the result could meet the standards of a reviewing court.

The Supreme Court's Adarand decision held that "federal affirmative action programs that use racial and ethnic criteria as a basis for decision-making are subject to strict judicial scrutiny."

The committee wants to make sure the FCC's diversity initiatives can survive that scrutiny.

Until the FCC can come up with a new, and "constitutionally defensible method of promoting racial and gender diversity in media and telecommunications ownership," the committee recommended that the FCC use a race and gender-neutral Full File Review.

That would be a review in which the FCC would take into account an ownership applicant's "success in overcoming social disadvantages," which it finds is "predictive of entrepreneurial success and public service in media and telecommunications."

Those "social disadvantages could include "discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, language, disability, age, veteran status, and location of business operation in an economically depressed community or region," said the committee, adding that they were all race-neutral factors and that point should be made clear.

The committee also voted to restore the FCC's designated entity program and provided numerous recommendations for the national broadband plan, including incentives for high-speed broadband, a broadband hardware subsidy, expanding the E-rate program to include Internet literacy and training, partner with organizations that win broadband stimulus grants to help drive demand for broadband.

At a speech Tuesday, FCC commissioner and former acting chairman Michael Copps praised the moves. Not surprising, since his first charge to the committee back in May was to consider the Full File Review route and developing the Adarand studies.

"I wholeheartedly welcome these recommendations," he said, "and I will be working for their prompt consideration-and I underscore that word ‘prompt'-by the full Commission."