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Hard to Believe. Advertisers Still Discriminating.

Hard to Believe. Advertisers Still Discriminating.

Yesterday's memo from the FCC requiring stations to verify that their advertising contracts do not discriminate against Hispanics and African Americans is good news to David Honig. Honig is the executive director of the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council. Last night we spoke to Honig and asked him just how much discrimination he believed was going on in radio. Some of his answers may surprise you after all these years.

How prevalent is the radio "no dictate" problem in your opinion? 
VERY.  Most of it has gone underground.  Over the past two years weve collected, from whistleblowers, over 60 examples, and only three were in writing.  Extrapolating from three scholarly studies on the subject, weve calculated that this practice costs minority broadcasters $200M/year that they earn but never collect.

Do you know of any specific instances or advertisers you can share?
The best known recent example was a written no urban dictate in 1999 from the agency that (at the time) represented Mini-Cooper. The FCC hadnt started enforcing the rule, so it took no action. Civil rights organizations and Members of Congress spoke up.  Mini-Cooper not only apologized, it fired the agency.  That got the industrys attention.

How long have you (and others) been fighting for something like this ruling?
NABOB absolutely deserves the most credit.  It first proposed such a rule at an FCC hearing on the subject in 1984.  And it has worked for the rule incessantly ever since.  So this day was a long time coming 27 years.

Is it realistic to think it will change anything? 
Absolutely!  Remember Dr. King, in his I Have a Dream speech at the 1963 March on Washington, in which he observed that justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream?  History has proven him correct.  When the FCC adopted the EEO Rule in 1971, minority employment in broadcasting stood at 5% - mostly secretaries and janitors.  By 2000 (when the FCC stopped keeping records), it stood at 19%.

Keep in mind, also, that the primary practice that the Advertising Nondiscrimination Rule addresses is discrimination in commerce merchants not wanting minorities in their stores, and therefore deciding not to use Black and Spanish radio to solicit their business.  This is the very same practice that Congress addressed with the public accommodations section (Title II) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Courts referred to public accommodations discrimination as a badge and incident of slavery.

And certainly Title II has had a remarkable, beneficial and transformative impact on society.  NUDs and NSDs persist, but in-your-face public accommodations discrimination practiced in a brick and mortar store has become so rare that when it occurs it can be big news and it shocks the conscience. Think of the incident at the Annapolis Dennys when six African American Secret Service officers, in town to protect the President, couldnt get served breakfast?  We all remember it.  It was so awful that it seems like it happened yesterday.  Actually, it happened in 1993 18 years ago.

So absolutely, we can bury advertising discrimination too.  Im willing to predict that if we enjoy two years of strict FCC enforcement, NUDs and NSDs will become a relic of the past.

Bottom Line: All broadcasters will benefit when advertisers regard all radio listeners as valued consumers.




(3/24/2011 8:50:52 AM)
When a big company like Kubota or a small company like Bob's Tractor Supply come to my agency looking for radio buys, our DEMOGRAPHIC data determines the audience that best suits the client. It is not discriminatory, it is market economics. Of course we are going to run Country, and not Urban. So when the hip-hop station doesn't get the monies from a farm equipment buy, we're on the hook as an agency? Totally BS. The same 'discrimination' happens in reverse as well, but I don't see the Country Station up in arms when it doesn't get a buy from Tommy Hilfigger, the going logic would be.. are you stupid, this brand doesn't target rednecks.

- MJ Sudol
(3/23/2011 6:14:52 PM)
Who will be the first to change their station to a minority-oriented format and threaten to blow the whistle to force their way on to buys?

- Peter Tripp
(3/23/2011 6:05:44 PM)
I consider where I might put my advertising dollars as my exercise of my freedom of speech. Hopefully, one of the giant broadcast or advertiser groups will unleash their lawyers and turn this issue into a First Amendment case.

- Jon Morgan
(3/23/2011 5:30:34 PM)
For those old enough to remember "Catch 22" this is like signing 'loyalty oaths.' Sign as many as you like and it still doesn't matter--unless you are David Honig and make your living on this. No half smart manufacturer or retailer is going to exclude any market segment that he/she thinks will buy their product.

- George
(3/23/2011 2:31:13 PM)
When placing local advertising for a Charter School, the local Univision station required the spot to be done in Spanish. The translated it and re-dubbed the audio without even telling us. Yes, it comes from the "minority" media community more than from general society.

- Robert

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