MMTC to Wheeler: Extend MVPD Procurement Rule

The Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council fired off a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler Tuesday (July 12) saying the FCC should not face any legal impediment to extending its MVPD procurement regulations to broadcasting and all other communications sectors.

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

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

MMTC president Kim Keenan told Wheeler extending the requirement should be no problem.

"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, who urged the FCC to extend the rule, noted 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 the FCC faces a "real challenge" under the Supreme Court's strict scrutiny standard of such policies under the Adarand decision and that if there was a way that challenge could be addressed and that threshold overcome, he was interested in hearing about it.

The 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.