RUSH'S LAW

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If tv and radio stations formatted for minority audiences aren't getting "fair" value for their ad time, Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.) has a solution: Declare it discrimination and write a law against it. That is the congressman's proposal in his Broadcasters Fairness in Advertising Act, now pending in the House of Representatives. But it's no solution no matter how frustrated some ad sellers may be.

When uninformed market strategy -- sometimes fueled by racial stereotyping out of place in today's supposedly smarter marketing world -- leads media planners to discount the value of minority media, is this sloppy business thinking? Or is it something more: discrimination so noxious it deserves to be declared unlawful by the federal government?

A Federal Communications Commission study has related how minority TV and radio audiences often draw lower CPMs than similar general-market TV and radio audiences. But it's still a reach to say government or the courts should be the ultimate arbiter of what is or is not a fair price for TV and radio time, as Rep. Rush proposes. The buyers and sellers of advertising are better served by insuring that ad decisionmakers get the kinds of information about minority consumers and their media habits that allow the marketplace to work better.

This means seeing that marketers, planners and buyers have an open-door policy for minority media. Then the decisions on where to advertise -- which ultimately affect price in our supply-and-demand ad market -- will be made on up-to-date data about the value of minority consumers and the sales impact of using the particular media that target them. Show marketers they can profit from these