Speaking at the 32nd Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that making it harder for television stations to enter into local operational alliances has resulted in an increase in minority broadcast ownership.
The discussion of Everett C. Parker, an early advocate of ownership diversity, prompted Wheeler’s remarks. Parker was also instrumental in bring the voice of the public into play during FCC proceedings.
“The fact that today all FCC processes are open and that anyone can provide comments on the topics we discuss is a tremendous legacy that we too often take for granted,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler discussed the need to embrace change, noting that making sure all citizens are empowered by technological advances is key.
He then moved on to his broadcast comments: “Case in point: look at media ownership. This was at the center of Everett Parker’s fight 50 years ago, and it’s still an important issue today. As many of you know, in recent years, we saw covert consolidation in the broadcast television industry as major corporations used so-called sidecar agreements to do an end-run around the FCC’s media ownership limits. The result was a reduction in the number of ownership opportunities for women and minorities. In March, the FCC cracked down on these sidecar deals. I’m pleased that as a result of these new rules, new opportunities are being opened for minority and women ownership. When Gray Television, for instance, was unable to gain our approval to continue the old ways, they sold six full-power TV stations to new minority and female owners. That’s great news, but the reality is that – thanks to new broadband technologies – facilities ownership is less critical to diverse voices than ever before. Yes, we will continue to push for diversity in ownership. But, just as important in the Internet Age, we need to exploit our new networks for ownership diversity and content diversity.”