FCC blasted for lack of action on minority issues


An organization of organizations has told the FCC that to its utter amazement, movement on improving the situation for minorities in the broadcast media has not come to a standstill, it has moved in the wrong direction. The letter went to FCC chair Julius Genachowski and included key legislators and all four commissioners on the copy list.

The groups stated, “We did not think it possible that a year later, the status of civil rights at the FCC would get even worse, but it has.”

The coalition says just for starters that the FCC’s report to Congress identifying market entry barriers to entrepreneurs and small businesses, due in 2009, still has not been submitted, and goes on from there.

It said that out of 72 proposals to encourage minority broadcast ownership, only one has been acted on, and that action was a rejection. And the group said that even more items appear to be on the chopping block, noting that “…at the March 3, 2011 agenda meeting, the Commission proposes to adopt an item that implicitly rejects some of the 72 proposals by making it even more difficult for radio owners with inferior technical facilities (a condition affecting most minority broadcasters) to survive by moving their transmitters closer to their competitors’ in-market stations.”

It claims that there is no meaningful enforcement of either EEO requirements or the advertising non-discrimination rule, which it says costs minority broadcasters $200M annually.

Another complaint is that there has been no action on multilingual emergency broadcasting in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

They note that minority broadcast ownership, too low to begin with, is getting even lower, and that the presence of minority journalists in English-language radio is approaching zero.

The letter also brings up other matters unrelated to broadcasting.

They asked for a meeting with Genachowski. “We respectfully request an opportunity to meet with you to discuss the issues raised in this letter. With less than two years remaining in the President’s term, there’s not a lot of time left to reverse the tailspin in which minority businesses, entrepreneurs, employees and executives in media and telecom find themselves.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is supposedly the year when the delayed quadrennial review is addressed. Will that procedure address some of these issues? The short answer is that it has to. But can the Commission break away from its laser-focus on broadband to get to it? Stay tuned.