As a condition of merger, surviving SDARS entity Sirius XM agreed to provide a number of channels on its satellite audio service to niche and noncommercial programmers to assure that programs available on the service would offer diverse options to subscribers. The FCC has been working on rules of the road for the program, and now Minority Media and Telecommunications Council wants clarification on what the definition of a qualified programmer is.
MMTC had three areas of concern.
First, the rules as proposed would eliminate from consideration a programmer that has an existing relationship with the satellite company. “This condition is vague and Ambiguous,” wrote MMTC, “because it fails to give Sirius XM adequate guidance on how to promote the condition’s original purpose – increasing diversity. Specifically, this new definition does not address whether programmers that have had non-extensive relationships with Sirius XM – e.g., have provided only modest amounts of programming, or have swapped programming with Sirius XM, should be precluded from receiving the opportunity to program a set-aside channel.” MMTC wants a specific definition of what “relationship” means in this context.
Second, MMTC want to make sure that programmers that bring non-race based diversity to the table are given a preference. It suggested the following list: “Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American Serving Institutions (AASIs), and Native American Serving Institutions (NASIs), which are based on mission, not race; multilingual programmers, a classification based on language, not race; and tribal entities, a classification based on treaty relationships, not race.” MMTC argued that these types of programmers often have difficulty finding enough audience to support a program service in any one market but could do well with access to a national audience.
Finally, MMTC argues that 99.99% of all possible programming entities right on up to huge international entities – it suggested Google – would qualify. “Due to the definition’s extremely dilute impact, the Commission’s goal of promoting diversity would be severely set back if this definition were to become the de facto standard.”
MMTC suggested adopting the proposal of the Diversity Committee: “The Amendment would expand the DE program by creating an additional race-neutral preference to individuals who have at least partly overcome a substantial disadvantage. The preference would contain no presumptions or entitlements based on a person’s membership in a demographic group. Instead, each applicant would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, looking into the extent to which she used her individual initiative to overcome a substantial disadvantage. The substantial disadvantage could have been attendant to military service trauma, a natural disaster, to poverty or discrimination or other substantial factors. Thus, the disadvantage determinations would give all types of people an opportunity to benefit based on their individual qualifications.”