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MMTC Pushes FCC on Pared List of Diversity Imperatives

Tells commission these are keys to demonstrating commitment

As FCC chairman Tom Wheeler prepares to circulate the FCC’s long overdue quadrennial media ownership rule regulatory review next week, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council has pared back two-dozen longstanding diversity proposals to five and asked that the FCC take action on them. That came in a letter to Wheeler dated Friday.

“We are pleased to identify and describe five proposals that, we believe, are ideally suited for approval now,” it told Wheeler. “Moving forward on these five proposals would demonstrate the steady and expeditious civil rights advancement that the Court has encouraged the Commission to pursue and that history and justice compel.”

MMTC said it had pared down the list after meetings with FCC commissioners — Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Ajit Pai and Mignon Clyburn (Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was out of town at the time), members of Wheeler’s staff, the chief of the Media Bureau, staffers in the office of General Counsel and others.

Those making the list were:

1) Promoting minority ownership as an “integral part” of all FCC rulemaking proceedings. “Due to the very small size of the civil rights and public interest FCC bar, these issues are often not raised in the proceedings at all,” MMTC says.

2) “Extend the Cable Procurement Rule to Broadcasting. Congress in the 1992 Cable Act requires cable operators to encourage participation by minorities and women in all parts of their organizations,” calling it “one of the FCC’s long-term civil rights success stories.”

3) Adopt “tipping point” and “source diversity” formulas for ensuring diversity in local radio markets. The “tipping point” formula “acknowledges the existence of a tipping point in the distribution of radio revenue in a market between cluster owners and independents. When the combined revenues of a market’s cluster owners exceed this tipping point, the independents can no longer survive,” which would help the FCC determine when a transaction would hurt diversity. The Source Diversity formula “expresses the consumer benefit derived from marginal increases in source diversity.”

4). Create a model for market-based, tradeable diversity credits, likened to the trading carbon credits to reduce pollution, in this case a way to boost diversity and decrease concentration. “If a transaction would increase concentration, the buyer would be expected to return some of its Diversity Credits to the Commission at the close of the transaction. Companies could also buy or sell these credits to one another, thus providing a market-based source of access to capital for SDBs,” said MMTC.

5) Create a new civil rights branch of the FCC Enforcement Bureau, which it said would promote “consistency, efficiency and effectiveness.”

MMTC did not say it was abandoning its other 19 proposals, but outlined the various reasons why it had not chosen to push those at this time, including questions about FCC authority, budget issues, timing, and the ability to pursue them via other proceedings.