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FCC’s New Ad Discrimination Policy Gets Tested

As renewals start to arrive, some say agency didn’t give enough notice, others say they don’t use paper contracts.

The FCC is hearing varied excuses from some broadcasters about why they cannot certify that there isn’t anti-discrimination language in their advertising contracts.

The language is aimed at stamping out so-called “No Urban/No Spanish” ad buy dictates by advertisers. Some station owners find the new requirement onerous.

The rolling radio license renewal cycle has begun with renewal applications from two groups due so far and others to come. Renewal applications for radio licensees in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia were due on June 3; the deadline was Aug. 1 for stations in the Carolinas.

Of 800 or so stations that have applied for license renewal so far, about 50 left the certification box unchecked, according to FCC Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle.

Speaking at a regulatory session at last week’s Radio Show in Chicago, he said: “Some have told us they don’t use long-term contracts or paper contracts. Others have told us they just discovered the new rule. Some have told the FCC we didn’t give enough notice.” The commission came out with the new policy in March.

Doyle reminded station owners the commission is “not looking for mathematical certainty. We’re looking for due diligence.”

Anne Swanson of Dow Lohnes advised station owners to get an early start on their renewal paperwork. “You have to file your application four months before your license expires. We recommend stations start gathering paperwork eight months in advance.”

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