FCC Probes Urban Radio Ad Bias

The Federal Communications Commission is nearing completion of an effort to gauge the extent of discrimination in the placement of ads on black- and Hispanic-oriented radio stations.
Surveys have been sent to dozens of minority and women broadcasters regarding advertising, FCC representative Liz Rose said last week.
The FCC is “not looking so much at minority-owned stations, as the format and whether that automatically puts the station in a certain category,” said a source.
Following reports that advertisers and ad rep chains routinely avoid placing spots on “urban” and Hispanic radio outlets, the FCC has conducted interviews with agency executives and clients. FCC officials have declined to specify the extent of their data-gathering efforts, indicating some concern that radio broadcasters, advertisers and agencies may pressure members of Congress to quash the FCC probe, or limit its scope if they feel threatened.
Rose said the FCC now hopes to have a report by late September. FCC chairman Bill Kennard has said it is one of his top concerns.
“If we’re talking about a station that just attracts a lot of teenagers with no money, that’s one thing,” said Rose. “But if the demographics show that the income level is higher, then the ad gap is significant.”
One source indicated that the research has almost been completed and the focus now is on comparing the demographics.
Some “urban” stations attract high listenership, but very little advertising. A Mediaweek study cited 12 urban and Hispanic stations that rank high in their cities’ ratings, but relatively low in ad revenue.