UPDATE 5-29-2008- Please note, the Commission has revised the dates for submitting comments in this rule making proceeding. Comments in the proceeding are now due on or before June 30, 2008, and Reply Comments are due on or before July 14, 2008. This means that interested parties have a couple of weeks less than initially thought to prepare and file comments in this proceeding, so start drafting now. A copy of the Federal Register correction notice can be found here.
The FCC has published its Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on its efforts to encourage diversity in the broadcast media in the Federal Register, thus setting the dates for public comments. The FCC is seeking comment on a number of ideas – some to restrict the definition of the Designated Entities that are eligible to take advantage of the rules promote diversity to minority groups and perhaps women, others to expand the universe of media outlets available to potential broadcast owners – including proposals to expand the FM band onto TV channels 5 and 6, and proposals to allow certain AM stations, which were to be returned to the FCC after their owners received construction permits for expanded band stations, to retain those stations or transfer them to Designated Entities. There are numerous other issues to be considered that we summarized in detail here. Check out the details, and file your comments, which are due on June 30.
The Federal Register publication also sets the effective date for the Diversity rules that the FCC did adopt. These rules will become effective on July 15. We summarized the new rules here. While many of these new rules are relatively uncontroversial, allowing certain limited exceptions to the multiple ownership rules for companies that help minority ownership, some have imposed new obligations that, in some cases, are not easily defined. For instance, while no one would argue with the proposition that parties who discriminate based on race or gender should be penalized, the FCC adopted some rules that may need further clarification. For instance, the FCC adopted new rules to require certifications that there has been no discrimination in all FCC applications seeking approval for the sale of a station (FCC Forms 314 and 315). The FCC also adopted rules prohibiting dictates by advertisers that their advertising not run on urban or Spanish formatted stations (‘no urban, no Spanish" dictates). Yet, on neither of these rules did the FCC provide any specificity as to what they were prohibiting, or what the Commission would look at in enforcing these rules. Watch for potential requests for reconsideration or clarification of these and perhaps other rules – which are due on June 15.