FCC licensee diversity, sunsetting discussed on the Hill


U.S. CongressAll five FCC commissioners told members of the House Communications Subcommittee that the Commission was working on efforts to encourage more minority and female ownership of communications licenses. But the most interesting suggestion was to sunset every single existing FCC regulation.

The sunset regulation came in response to a question from Cliff Stearns (R-FL). Robert McDowell suggested sunsetting every rule, thereby forcing the necessary ones to be consciously reinstated, based on his belief that so very many of the rules are now outdated.

A great deal of time was spent on the universal service fund, which is of course hold minimal to no interest for broadcasters, other than any general interest they may have as citizens of this nation or possible beneficiaries of universal service.

Mike Doyle (D-PA) brought up minority-female ownership. He said his Pittsburgh district is going the wrong way, citing the loss of minority ownership of radio station WAMO. Julius Genachowski said studies on this are in progress; and Robert McDowell said he supports the concept and wants to see the studies completed, and asked for Congress to pass an improved incentive tax certificate. Mignon Clyburn applauded a recently-completed study of studies, saying it was a step in the right direction. Jessica Rosenworcel said the current statistics were not encouraging, and improving the situation is “the right thing to do.” Ajit Pai also agreed, and said the matter was part of the quadrennial process and said he hopes to see something on the topic by the end of the year.

Other than looking at ownership from a diversity standpoint, other matters that are part of the quadrennial review were ignored during questioning. Local ownership caps, a white-hot topic a few years ago, and the equally attention-getting proposal to ease newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership restrictions, did not come up. Nor was indecency a topic. (Both were mentioned in the opening remarks of Commissioner Robert McDowell.)