FCC Establishes Diversity Incubator Program

The FCC today took what it called “a historic and long overdue step” to increase ownership diversity in the radio industry. Specifically, it adopted requirements that will govern an incubator program to assist new, small or struggling voices, including women and minorities, in overcoming the key barriers to entry into the broadcast sector.

For many years, both the civil rights community and broadcasting industry have called for the establishment of an incubator program. Today’s order, the commission said, “at long last, answers that call.”

Under the program, an established broadcaster will provide financial and operational support, including training and mentoring, to a new or small broadcaster. At the end of a successful incubation relationship, the new or small broadcaster will either own and operate a new station independently, or the previously struggling broadcaster’s station will be on a firmer footing.

Once an incubation relationship is completed successfully, the established broadcaster will be eligible to receive a waiver of the commission’s Local Radio Ownership Rule, subject to certain requirements.

The incubator program initially will apply to full-service AM and FM broadcast radio stations as the costs of obtaining and operating radio stations make the radio sector a significantly more accessible entry point than television for entities with limited capital resources and operational experience.

The incubator program, the FCC said, “addresses the need for more innovative approaches to provide access to capital, as well as technical, operational, and management training, to new entrants and small broadcasters that otherwise would not be able to own a full-service broadcast radio station, acquire an additional station, or remain in the broadcasting business.”

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Commenting on the move, NAB EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton said: “NAB applauds the FCC for creating an incubator program that will help new entrants realize their dream of radio station ownership. Incubators are key to breaking down financial and operational barriers to entry for underrepresented communities interested in media ownership. NAB encourages the FCC to extend this initiative to local TV station ownership as well.”


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