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Those Sirius XM “qualified entity” channels – who wants them?

Sirius XMAfter two years of kicking the can down the road, the Federal Communications Commission has finally established rules for allocating those “qualified entity” Sirius XM channels.

Quick history: back in July of 2008 the FCC approved the merger of Sirius XM satellite radio, but with lots of conditions. One of them was that four percent of the merged company’s channels had to be set aside for minority broadcasting entities, defined as (take a deep breath) “any entity that is majority-owned by persons who are African American, not of Hispanic origin; Asian or Pacific Islanders; American Indians or Alaskan Natives; or Hispanics.”

But “following approval of the merger,” Commissioner Michael Copps dourly noted this week, “it quickly became apparent that this particular condition—perhaps well-intentioned, but hastily and inartfully drawn—was going to cause problems. It did, and it has taken more than two years to get to today’s solution. Those were two lost years for more diverse programming on these satellite channels.”

Indeed, the complexities of Federal affirmative action law made it difficult for both the FCC and Sirius XM to resolve how to allocate the channels under those terms. So the new rules pretty much scotch that list of ethnic groups, and just define a Qualified Entity as one that doesn’t have an established business or programming relationship with Sirius XM (and hasn’t for the last two years).

As for how many channels an entity can take on (12 all told), here are the conditions:

“Sirius XM has discretion to allocate capacity among the lessees, provided that: (1) no more than one-half of the total channels set aside for this condition are allotted to full-power broadcast licensees, including entities and individuals with an attributable interest in any such licensee; and (2) no more than four of the channels set aside for this condition (i.e., two channels simulcast on both Sirius and XM, two channels on Sirius and two channels on XM (not simulcast), or four channels on one platform) are allotted to any single lessee, including any entity with an attributable interest in the lessee.”

So who has put themselves in the running for this opportunity? Here’s a partial list of the candidates who have filed in the Sirius XM Qualified Entity proceeding (you can peruse through the whole list here):

Radio One. The black oriented radio station network has been talking to the FCC on this matter since the getgo. The Commission’s percentage rules are more or less in sync with what the company asked for, although the dropping of specific minority groups from the Qualified Entity list opens the candidate pool to a lot more companies.

Entravision. The Spanish language media company suggested a plan that would make it possible for a single entity to take all the channels.

Howard University. The Washington, D.C. based historically black college has been very interested in these channels for quite a while, and has expressed concerns that the Commission’s rules not exclude an educational institution from the game.

Hispanic Information and Telecommunications, Inc. Describes itself as an organization “whose mission is to promote educational opportunities for Hispanic Americans through multiple media outlets and telecommunications services.” HITn has its own online TV service, not surprisingly dubbed HITn Online TV.

Mosaic Communications. A venture spoken for by Gloria Penn Easton, former owner of WWSI-TV in Philadelphia.

NY Metro Korea Inc. The company describes itself as “wholly owned by Young Kwon, a Korean-American. KRB currently provides programming 24/7 on WWRU(AM), Jersey City, New Jersey – the only Korean-language station in the New York area. Over 90% of KRB programming is original locally-produced programming, including news, music, talk, entertainment, and informative tips for new Korean immigrants to the United States.”

Other (and frankly more mysterious) contenders include the RSS Network Corp, Flute Radio (“the largest holder of FCC licenses in the 72-76 MHz band”), and iClick2Media and Alpha Star International.

“We require Sirius XM to enter into leasing agreements with its selected Qualified Entities on the implementation deadline of April 17, 2011,” the FCC says. Good luck to all candidates!


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