November 25, 1997
Re: Implementation of Section 309(j) of the Communications Act -- Competitive Bidding Procedures for Commercial and Instructional Fixed Television Service Licenses (MM Docket No. 97-00), Reexamination of the Policy Statement on Comparative Broadcast Hearings (GC Docket No. 92- 52) and Proposals to Reform the Commission's Comparative Hearing Process to Expedite the Resolution of Cases (Gen Docket No. 90-264).I fully support this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The auction rules for commercial radio and television licenses that we propose today are consistent with the intent of Congress as expressed in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Moreover, auctions for these licenses will serve the public interest because we will be able to award licenses efficiently, thereby quickly getting to consumers those services that they most value.
This Notice also seeks comment on ways to implement the further will of Congress, expressed in Section 309(j)(4)(d) of the Communications Act, that we give small businesses, rural telephone companies, and businesses owned by members of minority groups and women the opportunity to participate in the provision of spectrum-based services. Fulfilling this statutory mandate has become more and more challenging. In recent years, our policies designed to improve opportunities for minorities and women have come under rigorous judicial scrutiny. The courts have made clear that to sustain race-based policies, they must be narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest.
In my view, we are right to be concerned when we observe trends that suggest minorities and women are not enjoying the fruits of new economic opportunity, and should endeavor mightily to determine the reasons why and to put into place sustainable solutions. This task has always been difficult, but is particularly arduous now in light of recent rulings by the courts. It is worthy to do, nonetheless, and I urge the commentators to offer well- reasoned, comprehensive and creative comments to aid the Commission in its effort. I believe it is unhelpful to offer self- evident rationales, as has sometimes been done in the past, or to re-argue the worthiness of our concern. If one believes, as I do, that the Constitution is not a complete bar to expanding opportunities for minorities and women, then we should not be afraid to forge ahead in search of effective tools to use that will pass judicial review-- no matter how difficult it might be to navigate a successful path.