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FCC: Tax Incentives for Media Sales to Small Businesses, Women, Minorities

The Federal Communications Commission officially asked Congress to pass a law that would give tax incentives to media companies that sell communications outlets to small businesses, including women and minorities.

That came in a legislative proposal contained in the FCC's just-released triennial report on the steps the commission has taken to reduce the regulatory entry barriers for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The goal is to increase the diversity of voices, to foster economic competition and to promote the general welfare of the public.

The FCC broke down the list by bureau and office. For example, the Media Bureau got credit for

• “Adopting a further notice of proposed rulemaking initiating regulatory review, which invited comment on proposals to advance minority and disadvantaged businesses and to promote diversity [FCC chairman Kevin Martin has said he is ready to vote many of those proposals Dec. 18];

• Seeking to ensure that cable operators affiliated with video programmers carry not only their own programming networks, but also unaffiliated networks, thereby fostering diversity of cable programming;

• Adopting digital-transition policies that take into consideration the needs and interests of small businesses regarding deadlines and other requirements;

• Initiating a proceeding seeking comment on specific rules guidance or best practices that would help to ensure that the local-cable-franchising process does not unreasonably impede competitive cable entry; and

• Continuing to enhance electronic filing systems, thereby relieving filers of time and cost burdens associated with paper filing."

While they supported the tax-incentive policy, FCC Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein dissented in part from a report that they said shows that the FCC has not done much for minorities or small businesses.

Copps called it a "slapdash cataloging of miscellaneous commission actions over the past three years" and said the FCC failed both to meet its obligation to report its actions and to take any "meaningful" actions as it was.

Adelstein used his dissenting statement as an opportunity to criticize what he saw as the inequity of the FCC's granting of cable set-top-box waivers and its failure to grant blanket waivers for smaller operators from its viewability order.

Both said the FCC's review of its media-ownership rules has not sufficiently addressed questions about the effects of consolidation on minorities raised by the court that remanded the rules for that review.