FCC Admonishes Stations for Missing Advertising Nondiscrimination Clauses

Posted on June 28th, 2024 by

Sixteen years ago, the FCC adopted a rule prohibiting stations from discriminating in advertising contracts on the basis of race or ethnicity, requiring that ad contracts contain nondiscrimination clauses.  At the time, the Commission had become aware that certain advertising sales practices on commercial stations allowed advertisers to prohibit their ads from airing on stations targeting certain demographics.  For example, some advertising contracts contained “no urban/no Spanish” clauses intended to minimize the proportion of African American or Hispanic customers patronizing an advertiser’s venue, or that presumed that African Americans or Hispanics could not be persuaded to buy an advertiser’s product or service.

The new advertising non-discrimination rule came with an added requirement for commercial station licensees to certify on their license renewal applications that their advertising practices did not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity, and that their advertising contracts contained nondiscrimination clauses.  Instances where the FCC had to take enforcement action about this rule have been few and far between, with stations regularly certifying to full compliance in their license renewal applications.

Fast forward to now.  About two weeks ago, the FCC admonished a commercial television station for violating the rule when the station could not certify in its 2021 license renewal application that it had included non-discrimination clauses in its ad contracts.  The station did clarify that it did not discriminate in advertising on the basis of race or ethnicity, but stated that it had only begun including nondiscrimination clauses in ad contracts “going forward.”  The FCC considered that it had been presented no evidence that the station had engaged in discriminatory practices, and so admonished the station instead of issuing a monetary forfeiture.  But the station’s license renewal was held up for three years in the process. Two other stations were admonished for similar violations.

Can you remember the last time you checked your station’s ad contracts to be sure that they include non-discrimination language, or added that language to the email signature block of your advertising reps in those instances when a formal ad “contract” is not being signed?

Is your ad contract nondiscrimination clause explicit and always present?  Double check so you can be confident in making the required certification for your station’s entire 8-year license term when you file the station’s next license renewal application.  If you need an example, here’s one: “In accordance with Paragraphs 49 and 50 of the FCC’s Report and Order No. FCC 07-217, this station is prohibited from and does not discriminate or allow discrimination in any contract for advertising on the Station based on race or ethnicity, and all advertising aired pursuant to this agreement is evaluated, negotiated, and completed without regard to race or ethnicity.”