Diversity Committee Members Push FCC To Include TV in Incubator

Some members of the FCC's diversity advisory committee want to make sure TV does not get left out of the FCC's proposed new diversity incubator program.

The commission, which is planning to vote on the incubator Report and Order (R&O) Aug. 2, said it planned to start with a radio version of the program because "the costs of obtaining and operating radio stations make the radio sector a significantly more accessible entry point than television for entities with limited capital resources and operational experience."

Related: Pai Outlines Diversity Incubator Program

But in a meeting with FCC Media Bureau staffers last week, Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE) members Diane Sutter, James Winston, DuJuan McCoy, said it was vital that TV be included ASAP (in this case, "as soon as practicable").

Related: Pai Says We're Turning Diversity Talk Into Action

"[T]he success of a radio incubation program should not be used as a barometer for whether, or when, television incubation would be implemented," they told the staffers, according to FCC documents. They want the order changed so it strongly affirms the FCC's desire to extend it to TV, and the criteria for doing so.

The FCC's November vote loosening local ownership rules included proposing the incubator program. That vote stemmed from a re-review of the ownership regs tied to a court mandate to include in any regulatory or deregulatory decision its impact on media ownership diversity.

The program, as outlined in the draft R&O, would pair established broadcasters with new or eligible entrants, the former providing resources for a three-year period to help those new entrants improve struggling stations or become a station owner. The carrot for the company doing the incubating is that they would get a waiver of the local ownership rule in the incubator market, or a comparable one. They would also get a waiver of the rule for their incubator relationship with the eligible entrant, though the latter would have to have autonomy over station decisions during the program.

New entrants would have to certify that they could not successfully improve their station, or buy one, without the program.

Related: O'Rielly Advises Diversity Committee to Focus on Incubator

The diversity committee members also asked that the FCC encourage Congress to give them an alternative carrot--pass a tax certificate bill that would give companies a tax break for incubating new entrants, something The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), which David Honig used to head, has been seeking for years, joined by FCC chair Ajit Pai.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.