Pai Outlines Diversity Incubator Program

The FCC is proposing the framework for an incubator program to help diversify broadcast ownership and will seek comment on how to reimburse low power TV's and translators for their spectrum repack expenses with the money Congress recently set aside for that purpose.

That is according to the tentative agenda for the FCC's Aug. 2 open meeting outlined by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Related: FCC's Pai Says Agency Is Converting Diversity Talk Into Action

Also on the agenda is finalizing rules for the auction of 28 GHz band spectrum, the FCC's first high-band auction for new 5G spectrum, and an order adopting a "one-touch make ready" policy the FCC hopes will speed deployment by allowing a single crew to prepare poles for attachments. That item, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, will also make it clear that localities cannot impose moratoria on network buildouts.

Finally, the meeting will include a notice of inquiry into launching a telehealth pilot program within the Universal Service Fund that subsidizes communications services to low-income and hard-to-reach areas.

The FCC created the incubator program as part of its periodic review of media ownership rules.

"This program is one that the FCC envisioned last year to encourage the entry of new and diverse voices into the broadcast industry," blogged Pai. "If adopted, my plan will enable the pairing of small aspiring, or struggling, broadcast station owners with established broadcasters who will provide assistance with training, finances, mentoring, and industry connections. And at the end of the incubation period, the incubated entity will have the right to purchase the incubating entity’s interest in the incubated station. The end result? The incubator program would lead to greater diversity and competition in the broadcast industry."

The FCC's November local ownership deregulation 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 incubator program was responsive to that mandate.

The FCC didn't actually vote to create the incubator program back in November, but instead voted on a notice of proposed rulemaking to seek input on how to create it. Pai said that was because there were still issues to address, like how to design and implement it, what the eligibility criteria should be and how such a program will be reviewed, monitored and enforced, as well as its costs and benefits.

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.