FCC PROBE IS UNDERWAY ON MINORITY MEDIA BUYING: STARTED LAST FALL, BUT KENNARD SAYS FULL INQUIRY MAY BE NEEDED

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The Federal Communications Commission is conducting a probe to determine if marketers and their ad agencies are discriminating against minority media.

FCC Chairman Bill Kennard and another commissioner are hinting the study may need to be become a formal inquiry.

The previously undisclosed study was revealed last week after Mr. Kennard and Commissioner Gloria Tristani publicly indicated their concerns that minority media may not be getting their fair share of ad buys.

ONLY 80% OF REVENUES

"Black-owned radio stations make about 80% of the revenues of non-black-owned stations with the same ratings," said Ms. Tristani. "We need to find out what is going on in the advertising world."

This comes in the wake of the disclosure of an internal memo from Amcast, a division of Chancellor Communications' Katz Media, instructing sales executives to encourage agencies to avoid buying urban radio outlets.

Though Katz officials have called the memo a "draft" and apologized for it, both the National Association of Black-owned Broadcasters and civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton have charged the memo indicates advertiser unwillingness to use minority media (AA, June 22).

The Rev. Sharpton met last week with Mr. Kennard.

The FCC said its study is being conducted by the Office of Communications Business Opportunities and was begun last fall, long before the Katz memo surfaced.

Catherine Sandoval, director of the office, said the study is an outgrowth of concerns about minority ownership and is among five authorized last fall to look into various aspects of minority ownership.

READY BY SUMMER'S END

A commission spokeswoman, said the study is "well under way" and due to be completed by the end of the summer.

Advertising and marketer groups deny their members systematically avoid buying minority stations.

"The minority segment is growing. Nobody can afford to ignore these groups," said Dan Jaffe, exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers. "Our members want to reach consumers effectively, the question is how you do that. Is it targeted media or mass media? That is the advertising art."

ANA recently set up a special committee to look at the issue of minority media.

John Kamp, senior VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said the issue "is a media buying question. Sometimes it means mainstream as well as minority media . . . There is no conspiracy to underbuy."

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