The Federal Communications Commission has decided how to implement the regulatory requirement requiring satellite radio broadcaster Sirius XM to make 4% of its combined spectrum available for broadcasts by non-corporate groups.
In its decision, the FCC appears to be dropping the race-based criterion for organizations submitting applications to broadcast content on Sirius XM's satellite frequencies -- one of the original conditions for Congressional and regulatory approval of the 2007 merger between Sirius and XM.
Specifically, the new definition of a "qualified entity" promulgated by the FCC leaves out the condition (included in earlier rules) that the entity be "majority-owned by persons who are African American... Asian or Pacific Islanders; American Indians or Alaskan Natives; or Hispanics," to avoid possible challenges on constitutional grounds.
Instead, the rules merely require the organization not be owned by Sirius XM or share any corporate officers with the satcaster. The rules also exclude any entity which has provided content to Sirius XM in the last two years -- a measure specifically designed to encourage applications from smaller broadcasters unaffiliated with big corporations, as well as "new entrant[s] to the mass media industry."
Sirius XM is prohibited from exercising any control over the content carried on the 4% of the spectrum given over to public programming.
At the same time, the new rules also allow Sirius XM to participate in the process of choosing which applicants will get to share its satellite spectrum -- another important revision of the original terms. However, the company's choices will be subject to review by the FCC's Media Bureau.