FCC Releases Diversity Order
March 5, 2008 at 3:59 PM (PT)
The FCC has released the report and order and a third notice of proposed rule making in its ownership diversity proceeding. The order covers a wide range of issues, from defining "small business" to barring gender or racial discrimination in station deals and ad sales and extending the time for certain owners to build stations pursuant to construction permits. The order was adopted on DECEMBER 18th.
The order also seeks further comment on several proposals, including expansion of the definition of "eligible entities," share-time proposals, retention of the original AM station if an expanded band spinoff is sold to an eligible entity, ownership report modifications, rule waivers for incubator programs, city of license rule changes, must-carry for Class A LPTVs, reallocation of channels 5 and 6 for FM radio, and several ownership rule changes proposed by NABOB and THE RAINBOW COALITION/OPERATION PUSH. Comments on the proposals will be due 30 days after publication in the FEDERAL REGISTER, with replies due 45 days after publication.
A summary in the order notes that the Commission "(1) changed the construction permit deadlines to allow eligible entities that acquire expiring construction permits additional time to build out the facility; (2) revised the equity/debt plus attribution standard to facilitate investment in eligible entities; (3) modified the distress sale policy to allow certain licensees – those whose license has been designated for a revocation hearing or whose renewal application has been designated for a hearing on basic qualifications issues – to sell the station to an eligible entity prior to the commencement of the hearing; (4) adopted an Equal Transactional Opportunity Rule that bars race or gender discrimination in broadcast transactions; (5) adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy for ownership fraud and agreed to “fast-track” ownership-fraud claims; (6) required broadcasters renewing their licenses to certify that their advertising sales contracts do not discriminate on the basis of race or gender; (7) resolved to conduct annual longitudinal studies of minority and female ownership after the Commission improves its data gathering process; (8) encouraged local and regional banks to participate in SBA-guaranteed loan programs in order to facilitate broadcast and telecommunications-related transactions; (9) adopted modifications to give priority to any entity financing or incubating an eligible entity in certain duopoly situations; (10) permitted the consideration of requests to extend divestiture deadlines in mergers in which applicants have actively solicited bids for divested properties from eligible entities; (11) revised the exception to the prohibition on the assignment or transfer of grandfathered radio station combinations; (12) agreed to convene an access-to-capital conference; and (13) decided to create a guidebook on increasing diversity in the media and telecom industries."