Policies designed to increase minority and female ownership of radio and television stations will soon be back in place at the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC may reinstate the policies as early as next week in response to orders from Congress cutting short commission efforts to dismantle the preference programs, FCC spokesman John Kamp said.
The agency put the policies on hold in December 1986 while it conducted an inquiry, saying it wanted to determine whether the policies were constitutional.
But members of Congress who support the policies inserted language in the massive 1988 spending bill passed before the holiday recess, giving the FCC no choice in the matter.
"The number of broadcasters that are minorities or women show it's not an open market," said Meredith Fauls, an aide to Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) "The only way you have any kind of level playing field is to give minorities and women preferences."
Weicker, ranking Republican on the Senate Small Business Committee, worked with Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) to insert the language in the spending package. Lautenberg had earlier sponsored similar legislation, which he said would promote diversity in broadcast programming.
Since the policies were adopted in 1978, the number of women and minorities who own broadcast stations has grown from under 50, or less than 1 percent of the total, to more than 300, or more than 3 percent, said Thomas Hart, a Washington lawyer who represents a group of minorities and women who lobbied for the preferences.
One of the policies that will be resumed allows broadcasters in danger of losing their licenses to sell their stations to minority-controlled interests for up to 75 percent of fair-market value.
The other policies give women and minorities preference over otherwise equally qualified white males in awarding licenses and grant tax breaks to owners who sell their stations to minorities.