FCC Clarifies Requirement for Antidiscrimination Clause in Advertising Contracts - And Sets Out Other License Renewal Changes


The FCC today released a Public Notice announcing new provisions in its license renewal Form 303S - the form that radio and television stations will be using to file license renewal applications, starting with license renewals for radio stations in DC, Virginia and West Virginia in June. The Notice addressed several changes in the license renewal form - including the addition of certifications concerning whether a station was off the air at any point during the license term for a period of more than 30 days, whether principals of the licensee have interests in daily newspapers in the same area, and whether the station is in compliance with the RF radiation rules. Two other issues of note were raised in the Public Notice - one dealing with stations that have not received a license renewal from the last license cycle, and one dealing with the newly required certification that stations must make - that their advertising contracts contain a nondiscrimination provision to assure that advertisers are not purchasing advertising on the station for a discriminatory purpose.

We've written about the advertising anti-discrimination certification before, suggesting language that stations include in their contracts. What is new in today's notice is that the FCC has clarified that the certification only covers the period from today's notice until the filing of the license renewal application. So stations that do not have such certifications can still get them into their contracts now to avoid certification issues later. In our previous articles on this subject, we've noted that this is a confusing requirement, and that even its supporters have urged the FCC to clarify it. Today's Notice only says that stations must avoid advertising purchases made on the basis of "no urban, no Spanish" dictates, but does not go any further in interpreting the requirements of this policy.

The Public Notice also requires that stations that have license renewals pending from the last license renewal cycle file another application updating all their information from the time since their last renewal application was filed. We had suggested that this would occur in our article reporting on the FCC's attempts to clear up some of the backlog of old renewal cases. But this notice makes clear that broadcasters who have had their applications held up (for the most part due to indecency complaints), must file another license renewal application (which itself will presumably not be acted on while the indecency issue remains unresolved).

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