GAO cites low minority/women ownership levels


It is no secret that women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in the ranks of broadcast ownership compared to their percentage of the overall population. Late last week, the Government Accountability Office issued a report detailing some of the reasons for this, which included: “(1) the large scale of ownership in the media industry” (including, specifically, “consolidation of broadcast ownership”), “(2) a lack of access to sufficient capital for financing the purchases of stations and (3) the repeal of the tax certificate program, which provided financial incentives for incumbents to sell stations to minorities.” GAO determined this despite obstacles gathering information due to inadequacies in the FCC ownership database.

David Honig, executive Director of the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, said, “Minorities own just 3% of the nation’s commercial television stations and 7.8% of the commercial radio stations.  These are scandalously low numbers.  Thus, the GAO minority ownership report should be taken as a clarion call to Congress and the FCC.  It’s vital that Congress act now to restore the widely supported tax certificate policy, and hold hearings to provide comprehensive oversight of minority and women ownership. Commendably, on March 5 the FCC adopted thirteen new minority ownership initiatives and sought comment on twelve more proposals, including initiatives to repair minority ownership data collection, enhance minority access to broadcast spectrum, and create an incubator incentive program.  The Commission should act expeditiously and strive to adopt these new proposals this summer.”

RBR/TVBR observation: Most national broadcast organizations are backing the FCC’s efforts to promote increased ownership by what are sometimes called SDBs (socially-disadvantaged businesses). We can think of none that came out against. One problem is the very fact that the target businesses have come to be called SDBs – government efforts to increase minority and women ownership cannot be targeted specifically to either, but must be enabled by general policies aimed at small businesses. This is an intractable problem in general. No matter how noble your intentions, you can’t just walk up to a mainstream broadcaster and say “Sell to an SDB, now.” The thrust of the FCC effort is to enhance the odds for SDBs when stations do come on the market.

One of the best tools, however, is the tax certificate. Congress, that’s a no-brainer and only you can do it. So do it already.