Written by Attorney Joe Irby

What is the No Urban/No Spanish Dictate Rule?

For most broadcast stations, your license will expire in 2013 or 2014 and it’s time to start thinking about the renewal process. The FCC just passed a new requirement requiring proof of compliance with the “No Urban/No Spanish Dictates” rule. This requirement was integrated into the license renewal process in an order passed on March 22, 2011. The FCC recently announced that, as a part of the license renewal process for 2013, proving compliance with the “No Urban/No Spanish Dictates” rule will be mandatory.

The Rule, in short, states that advertisers are not allowed to circumvent stations that appeal to minorities, and you as a station manager, must provide proof that your station didn’t take money from any advertiser who refuses to advertise on such station.

Some things you can do to be assured you are compliant:

Place a broad disclaimer somewhere in the station’s advertising contracts. An example would be “This station does not discriminate on the sale of advertising time and will not accept advertising which is placed with an intent to discriminate against any person based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. The advertiser agrees that it is not buying advertising under this agreement with the intention of discriminating against any group of people based on race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Do not accept agency buys that say something to the effect of “do not run on urban/Spanish stations.” Even if your station is only Country, you still must reject the money. The way around this one is to call the agency and tell them about the rule and insist that they change the advertising purchase agreement they sent to you and exclude that requirement.

Oral advertising agreements – the salesperson must outright reject any advertiser who specifically requests spots not be run on urban/Spanish stations. Document and keep a log of each time this happens.

Make sure the sales team knows about this rule, and bring it up occasionally at weekly sales meetings. *Remember, advertisers are allowed to say, “I want to advertise on your ‘Hot Country’ stations.” Advertisers may request specific stations they would like to advertise on by format, they just cannot specifically say, “Don’t run my ads on [any station that appeals to certain minorities]” or something like that.

The FCC will be requiring each broadcast station to show a certificate of compliance with this new regulation. Although no specific type or form of certification has been provided, a broadcast station may write a letter (always a good idea to have it notarized) and provide copies of the advertising contracts that the station’s sales people are giving out to advertisers, as well as any contracts or ad requests from advertising agencies.

Since this is a new rule, this will be the first time it will be enforced. That said, not much precedent exists to act as a guide that predicts how the FCC enforces this requirement. For now, broadcasters should simply do anything they reasonably can to appease the FCC’s requirement. Prepare for enforcement in such a way that the FCC cannot have good cause to “make an example out of you.” Remember, you don’t want your station to become the proverbial “test case” when it comes to enforcement.

This post is part of a series of posts on Radio Station & Broadcast Law: 47 CFR 73 – 74 & More