RFP describes process for seeking diversity-dedicated channels set aside for “qualified entities”

It’s official! Sirius XM has posted the necessary forms, agreements, instructions, background, etc., etc., for anyone looking to lease one or more of the channels set aside for “qualified entities”. If you’re looking for a piece of that action, get out your fine-print reading glasses and head on over to http://www.siriusxm.com/qualifiedentity, where everything is laid out in considerable detail.

We reported last month that the FCC had (after more than two years of cogitation) finally come up with a decision establishing the regulatory limitations it would place on the implementation of the set-aside process. With that guidance in hand, Sirius XM has crafted a Request for Proposals (RFP) and a couple of related agreements (including a “channel lease agreement” and a second item, bearing the deceptively simple title “Agreement”) for interested folks to slog their way through.

The RFP spells out the information would-be channel lessees will need to lay out.

That information ranges over (but is not necessarily limited to) no fewer than 13 separate and discrete categories. The applicant’s owners, managers, financial plans and resources and, of course, proposed programming need to be disclosed, as well as a detailed explanation of how the proposed programming will contribute to diversity. (That last category entails eight – count ’em, eight – separate sub-categories.)

Completed proposals in response to the RFP are due in Sirius XM’s hands by 5:00 p.m. ET on January 7, 2011. Look for a reasonably quick turn-around: Sirius XM must notify the FCC of the chosen programmers by March 2, 2011, and lease agreements are supposed to be signed by April 17.

But bear in mind that a Petition for Reconsideration or Clarification of the FCC’s October order has been filed by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC). MMTC is asking the Commission to “clarify” its definition of “qualified entity” by directing Sirius XM to consider “diversity-promoting applicants whose qualifications are not defined by race”. (It suggests that Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Asian American Serving Institutions, and Native American Serving Institutions would all fill that bill, because each is “based on mission, not race”.) MMTC would also have the Commission specify that its definition of “qualified entity” is “confined to the unique facts” of the Sirius XM proceeding.

It seems doubtful that the MMTC petition will affect the deadline for RFP responses – or the contents of such responses – but you just never know.