Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau released an Enforcement Advisory reminding television and radio broadcasters that they must certify in their broadcast applications that their advertising contracts do not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.
This comes as a response to “No Urban Dictate” (NUD) policies civil rights leaders and minority broadcasters report are in place and actively executed in the advertising industry. This occurs when advertisers and their agencies intentionally by-pass urban and Latino stations, supposedly because the advertiser client has dictated that its ads not be placed with those outlets.
African-American broadcasters have long said the unspoken policies exist. The issue was first brought to the FCC by the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) 27 years ago.
In the Enforcement Advisory the FCC states,
In adopting this requirement, the Commission addressed reports that some advertising contracts contain ‘no urban/no Spanish’ dictates that are intended to minimize the proportion of African American or Hispanic customers patronizing an advertiser’s venue — or dictates that presume that African Americans or Hispanics cannot be persuaded to buy an advertiser’s product or service.
An under-valuing of minorities is real and has long been a plague on the advertising industry. Opponents to the Enforcement Advisory argue these practices are a thing of the past; but David Honig, President and Executive Director of the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council says his organization has been keeping track:
Over the past two years we’ve collected, from whistleblowers, over 60 examples [of NUD practices and/or policies].
Few companies would actually use the term, let alone admit that they have NUDs in place. Lack of acknowledgement, however, doesn’t mean they don’t.
Of the negative impact these policies have on black broadcasters, Honig states,
’No urban’ and ‘no Spanish’ dictates drain away an estimated $200 million a year from minority broadcasters. By enforcing the Advertising Nondiscrimination Rule and eradicating these discriminatory practices, the FCC will help minority stations garner a 5-to-10-percent increase in revenue. [The] announcement is a huge step forward for minority broadcasters and for the nation.
If broadcasters cannot certify that their advertising agreements do not discriminate based on race or ethnicity, they must defend their actions in the stations license renewal application. How palatable the FCC finds such responses and explanations will be considered in the renewal process.