‘No Discrimination’ Clauses Are Focus

When in doubt, spell it out, says Frank Jazzo on ad certification for license renewal
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When in doubt, spell it out, says Frank Jazzo on ad certification for license renewal

The new requirement that commercial radio and television stations must certify that their advertising sales agreements do not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity at license renewal time has stirred up a lot of questions among broadcasters.

Queries about the ad clause and about other changes in the revised Form 303-S poured out of industry personnel during the recent NAB Show. In an effort to answer those questions, NAB held a licensing renewal webinar yesterday.

FCC Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle said a station should focus on how it gets its advertising. It needs to make sure its own documents don’t discriminate and if it’s using ad agencies or other third parties, like online sources for advertising, a station must “exercise due diligence to make sure those contracts comply with our rules.”

Prohibited discriminatory practices include “no urban/no Spanish” dictates in which an ad buy specifically excludes those programming demos.

When a formal contract isn’t used and an agreement is made with a handshake or e-mail, Doyle said stations should make sure non-discrimination language is on the station invoice or included on e-mails with an advertiser.

If it’s not possible to verify that an advertiser doesn’t discriminate, Doyle advised stations to check “no” on the form and provide the FCC with an explanation.

“When in doubt, spell it out,” said communications attorney Frank Jazzo of Fletcher, Heald & Hildredth, who also participated. The webinar will be available soon to NAB members on the association’s website.

The certification covers March 14, 2011 until the filing date of the license renewal application.

— Leslie Stimson