April 13, 2016


The Honorable Greg Walden
2186 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Anna Eshoo
241 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Walden and Congresswoman Eshoo:

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (“MMTC”) respectfully submits this letter to express our concern about the proposals included in H.R. 4884, Controlling the Unchecked and Reckless Ballooning of the Lifeline Fund Act (“CURB Lifeline Act 2015”).  Our concerns are focused on the two-year phase out of mobile voice as an eligible service and the proposal of a hard cap on the Lifeline program budget.  We also provide feedback on H.R. 3998, Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act (“SANDy Act”).

On March 24, 2016, fourteen civil rights organizations, including MMTC, sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (“the Commission”) requesting that newly adopted Lifeline program rules embrace and support multiple technologies so that the nation’s neediest communities can reach parity with the rest of the nation in terms of broadband infrastructure.1   Our organizations also called on the Commission to be cautious in the establishment of new minimum standards for mobile voice services, coupled with the immediate reduction and eventual elimination of available support for mobile voice services.  We continue to maintain that removing support for mobile voice will potentially price out the very people that the Lifeline program is seeking to support.  Consequently, we urge that Congress not mandate the phase-out of mobile voice-only service within two years of enactment.  Historically disadvantaged consumers, such as low-income populations, seniors, the disabled, and others, have demonstrated their reliance on wireless voice services as their primary “lifeline” to communications services and a road out of poverty.  As MMTC has shared with the Commission, access to broadband services must be more ubiquitous before redirecting the subsidy toward broadband-only services for these vulnerable populations.  [click to continue…]

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 4, 2016):  After nearly eleven years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), on March 31, issued its Multilingual Emergency Alert System (EAS) Order (“EAS Order”) essentially rejecting the “Katrina Petition” filed following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by the Multicultural Media, Telecommunications, and Internet Council (MMTC), the Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association, and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ.

The Petition, driven by the events leading up to, during, and after Hurricane Katrina, sought to ensure that in life-threatening emergencies, such as hurricanes that disable telephone and some broadcast communications, at least one radio station would pre-commit to providing life-saving information in widely spoken languages other than English.

The FCC’s own 2006 Katrina Advisory Committee, headed by former NTIA Director Nancy Victory, endorsed relief similar to the reforms recommended by the Katrina Petition.  Fifty-seven national organizations endorsed the Katrina Petition.  This overwhelming support for the Petition was not noted in the FCC’s Order.  [click to continue…]

Washington, DC (April 1, 2016): The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced its plans to modernize the Lifeline program subsidy for wireline and wireless service for low-income consumers; the Commission will begin offering broadband support this year and phase in a mobile broadband minimum service standard over the next five years.

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) believes the Commission’s action to modernize the Lifeline program will provide affordable voice and broadband services to eligible, low-income consumers.  MMTC agrees with the Commission that streamlining program administration can only lead to a more innovative, effective, and robust program.  MMTC supports the Commission’s decision to forego implementing a cap on the Lifeline program, but rather impose a fiscally responsible budget.

“Today’s action is a step forward to address the 21st century needs of all Americans.  We will review the Order to ensure that it fully meets the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable communities,” stated MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan.  “While we are optimistic about today’s actions, we hope that the program does not get lost in partisan debates.  Lifeline must be available to close the digital divide for the benefit of low-income consumers.”  [click to continue…]

Special Discount! BESLA offering MMTC members discounted registration at $185 rate for professionals and $85 for law students. Email MMTC Director of Communications Marcella Gadson at mgadson [at] mmtconline [dot] org for the promo code! Visit BESLA.org for more information.

BESLA (Black Entertainment & Sports Lawyers Association) will host their Mid-Year Conference in New York City at Fordham University on April 4, 2016.

Following in this year’s theme, “Succeeding in the Entertainment and Sports Industries,” the conference will include several panels covering an array of topics such as digital media and tips to climbing the corporate ladder.

UPTOWN_la_reidThis year’s featured guest speaker is music industry veteran L.A. Reid, who will take part in an intimate and enlightening discussion about his experiences in the entertainment business.

A special luncheon panel on running a major sports union will feature DeMaurice F. Smith(Executive Director, The National Football League Players Association) and Michele A. Roberts (Executive Director, The National Basketball Players Association).

Other speakers include: Keith Clinkscales(CEO of Revolt TV & Media), Keyes Hill-Edgar (EVP of Business Affairs and General Counsel, Viacom Media Networks), Carlos Fleming (VP of Talent Management, WME/IMG), Kenny Chandler (Chief Human Resources Officer, Under Armour), Lori Aken (Sr. Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition and learning, Sony Pictures Entertainment), Ken Shropshire (Director of Spots Business Initiative and Special Counsel, Duane Morris, LLP), Endi Piper (Sr. Vice President and General Counsel, TV One) and Antonious Porch (General Counsel, Shazam).

“BESLA is incredibly excited and honored to have DeMaurice Smith and Michele Roberts headline the luncheon roundtable during this year’s mid-year conference,” shared the conference’s Co-chair Derek Jackson, Managing Counsel & VP of Business Affairs, Sports Marketing for Under Armour. “Both have used their legal backgrounds to become two of the most important and influential people in the sports industry, so conference attendees will benefit greatly from having a chance to interact with them and learn about some of their keys to success.”

“As we fulfill our mission at BESLA, by striving to empower our members and provide access to key influencers, what better way is there to achieve this than offering an up close and personal discussion with one of the music industry’s legendary producers and record label executives, Mr. Antonio “LA” Reid, the man who has discovered some of the biggest pop stars on the planet,” says Matt Middleton, conference Co-chair of Matthew J. Middleton Law, P.C.  [click to continue…]

On March 24, 2016, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), along with 13 national civil rights organizations, filed a letter with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, advocating against the Commission’s proposed institution of mandatory Lifeline co-pays. The full letter is below.

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

In 2060, people of color are projected to comprise 56 percent of the total U.S. population, up from just 38 percent in 2014.  This shift in the demographic composition of our country will generate more interest and urgency in addressing issues around economic and social mobility.  A crucial aspect of ensuring our continued economic growth in the future is to support ubiquitous access to online tools and resources.  For many Americans, particularly consumers of color, broadband access facilitates commerce, employment, education, and health care, all of which are critical to exercising first class, digital citizenship.  As representatives of the nation’s leading civil rights and social justice organizations, we laud the Commission’s efforts to modernize the Lifeline program to include broadband, but request that the agency proceeds fully informed of the real life circumstances of economically disadvantaged populations who are the intended program beneficiaries.

In your March 8, 2016 blog co-authored with Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, you state that the proposed Lifeline reforms will, “provide a pathway out of poverty for low-income consumers by modernizing Lifeline for the 21st century.”[1]   We support this statement and feel that absent stable and affordable access to communications service, vulnerable populations that include low-income households, rural residents, seniors, the disabled and disproportionately people of color, will have their voices muted in every sphere of their public and private lives and their aspirations never fully realized. [click to continue…]

Washington, DC (March 24, 2016): The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has released a White Paper titled, “A Lifeline to High-Speed Internet Access: An Economic Analysis of Administration Costs and the Impact on Consumers.” The White Paper focuses on the reform of the Lifeline program’s administrative structure to shift responsibilities for eligibility verification and program administration from service providers to a more centralized government process.  The paper was commissioned by MMTC with economic analysis provided by Dr. Coleman Bazelon from The Brattle Group and Dr. Olga Ukhaneva from Georgetown’s Center for Business and Public Policy.  Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee, MMTC’s Vice President and Chief Research and Policy Officer was the Senior Researcher along with Devan Hankerson, MMTC’s Research Director.

The general findings of the White Paper were that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should proceed with the modernization of the Lifeline program to include broadband, or access to high-speed Internet.  Given the affordability concerns of low-income, eligible Lifeline subscribers, the program will serve to facilitate first class, digital citizenship for these consumers.  In support of the provision of services to include broadband, the authors find that the FCC-reported estimates for Lifeline program administration are outdated and grossly understated for the service providers that currently administer the program attenuating competition and increased innovation in Lifeline products and services.  Further, the report highlights four key findings that should encourage policymakers to immediately remove service providers from administering Lifeline program eligibility verification and other functions.  [click to continue…]

Today, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) joined nine other leading civil rights and telecommunications organizations in sending a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler urging the Commission to “pause” its “Unlock the Box” proceedings to conduct a disparity study and properly assess whether the proposal is different from a la carte television programming. The full text of the letter is below and available online, here.

March 21, 2016

RE:  Expanding Consumer’s Video Navigation Choices, MB Docket No. 16-42; Commercial Availability of Navigation Devices, CS Docket No. 97-80; Promoting the Availability of Diverse and Independent Sources of Video Programming, MB Docket No. 16-41

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

As national leaders of civil rights organizations committed to the social and economic empowerment of communities color, we write to express our continued support for greater diversity and inclusion on and in our nation’s shared media platforms. The expansion of minority and women created content and viewpoints has always been an important goal for the civil rights community. We have long understood the powerful role the media and Hollywood play in the democratic process, as well as in shaping perceptions about who we are as individuals, communities and as a nation.

It is for this reason that we write in regard to your February 18th Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Memorandum Opinion and Order, Expanding Consumers’ Video Navigation Choices aka the Proposal to “Unlock the Set Top Box.” After convening multiple meetings and briefings to hear both sides in this important debate, we believe that an analysis regarding this proposal’s impact on diversity and inclusion must move to the center of the Commission’s actions.  [click to continue…]

Washington, DC (March 21, 2016): Today, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling for the elimination of the FCC’s Main Studio Rule because it operates as a market entry barrier inhibiting minority ownership.

MMTC holds that the Main Studio Rule – that all full-power broadcasters must maintain a studio either within its city of license, or at another site either within 25 miles of its city of license or within the city-grade contour of any station licensed to the same city of license as the station – is a 20th century holdover that should be abolished or modified to recognize 21st century technologies.

“It is time to amend the Main Studio Rule to reflect the times,” stated MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan.  “Reconciling the rules with the state of technology is within the public interest.”  [click to continue…]

FCC Spectrum Auction BidNext week, the Federal Communications Commission is holding its DTV incentive auction repurpose the nation’s spectrum. While most broadcasters are likely aware of this, few may realize that, whether large or small, they can benefit from auction-related tax savings.  MMTC Media and Telecom Brokers can help design tax strategies that can include opportunities for broadcasters – large and small – to do business with new entrants, particularly minority and women entrepreneurs.

Broadcast industry observers have noted that the adding machines in the tax and legal departments of major broadcasters are busily crunching numbers in anticipation of the tax gains that can be made as a result of the reverse auction.  The same tax benefits these major companies are considering are also available to small and mid-sized broadcasters.  MMTC Media and Telecom Brokers has a history of facilitating tax-deferred exchanges as part of its portfolio of nearly $2 billion in deals since 1997.

Prior to the January auction filing deadline, many broadcasters worked feverishly toward acquiring spectrum that it could sell back to the Commission in the auction.  As part of those acquisitions, some acquiring companies availed themselves of the IRS like-kind exchange rules to defer tax on the transactions.  For example, Spanish Broadcasting System exchanged three radio stations, plus $1.9 million, in Puerto Rico in exchange for three television stations that it intends to include in the auction for a profit.  By structuring similar acquisitions under IRS like-kind rules, many broadcasters have been able to defer tax on any gains from the sale of their existing stations. [click to continue…]

The following article originally appeared in Radio World.

Edward Distell, Darnell Washington, and Kongsue Xiong

Over the course of several decades, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council’s transactional arm, MMTC Media & Telecom Brokers, has worked to ensure that diverse voices and entrepreneurs are included in the nation’s rapidly evolving and intensely influential communications industries.

MMTC, founded in 1986, and its brokerage, founded in 1997, have negotiated dozens of media and telecom deals totaling approximately $2 billion in asset value. The firm has distinguished itself as the only minority-owned, full-service media brokerage in the United States and is one of the leading media brokerage firms in the nation.

Since its founding, the brokerage has received 10 full-power AM stations donated by iHeart Radio (formerly Clear Channel), Mega Communications and Entercom. MMTC has used these donations to incubate and train minority and women entrepreneurs to manage and operate broadcast stations — a pathway to ownership for many.

“We’re providing a unique service to the industry and the listening public by directly enabling the next generation of multicultural and women broadcasters to get their start in station ownership,” stated MMTC President and CEO Kim M. Keenan. “No one else is doing that.”

This is a conversation with three radio owners who got their start through MMTC’s brokerage: [click to continue…]