MMTC: Procurement Rule Can Be Extended

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council fired off a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler Tuesday saying there should not be any legal impediment for the FCC extending its MVPD procurement regulations to broadcasting and all other communications sectors.

MMTC has made that request, but at an FCC oversight hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee, Wheeler said that extending the rule to other platforms could raise constitutional questions.

Congress in the 1992 Cable Act requires cable operators to encourage participation by minorities and women in all parts of their organizations. MMTC wants that requirement to extend across the board.

MMTC president Kim Keenan told Wheeler there should be no problem in doing so. "Supporters and opponents of affirmative action agree that if a regulation 'merely required stations to implement racially neutral recruiting and hiring programs, the equal protection guarantee would not be implicated," she said, adding: "Until your testimony today, no one has ever suggested that the rule presents any constitutional question."

In an exchange with Wheeler, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), who urged the FCC to extend the rule, pointed out that the FCC's quadrennial review of media ownership rules had not included the MMTC proposal and asked Wheeler if he would commit to extending the rule across all platforms as a recognition of what she called self-evident industry convergence.

Wheeler said there was a "real challenge" the FCC faced under the Supreme Court's strict scrutiny standard of such policies under the Adarand decision. He said if there was a way that challenge could be addressed and that threshold overcome, he was interested in hearing about it.

MMTC was looking to answer that question.

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.