A Call For The FCC To Fix Minority Ownership ‘Suppression’

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Are you among the group of individuals who believe the FCC incubator program is destined to fail? You may want to read this.


The Southern Journal of Policy and Justice this week published a 61-page law review article with the salacious title, “How The FCC Suppressed Minority Ownership, and How the FCC Can Undo The Damage It Caused?”

We’ve perused the article, authored by Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) co-founder David Honig, and offer up some of its key points.The article, Honig notes, “has set out the methods by which a federal agency spent the better part of three generations systematically excluding people of color from access to the publicly-owned resource that is the key to influence democracy and first class citizenship: the broadcast radiofrequency spectrum.”

Further, Honig writes, “It is not an exaggeration to conclude that the FCC has deliberately acted for three generations as a gatekeeper to institutionalize Jim Crow stewardship of the nation’s airwaves — nor is it an exaggeration to conclude that the FCC, a highly expert agency, almost always knew what it was doing or made sure it didn’t know; always should have known and usually didn’t care. And some of this past is not yet in the past.”

With those heavy, accusatory words, Honig requests that the Commission now “must exercise its moral authority, hold a Summit, and accept responsibility. And fix it.”

The article opens by noting that the FCC “continues to regard free over-the-air broadcasting as the lifeline for millions of Americans,” even as newer technologies have captured the public’s imagination and purse.

Honig then cuts right to the chase.

“Certainly, the deliberate exclusion of people of color from ownership of the airwaves would be profoundly anti-competitive,” he notes. “What could be a more inefficient deployment of resources than having the entrepreneurial, managerial, and creative wealth of one-third of the country unable to find expression in the nation’s most influential industries? Such exclusion would also be morally wrong. Yet, it happened—on a grand scale—from 1932 to 1978. And, in some respects, it continues to this day.”

Honig offered up statistics that show 38.7% of Americans being persons of color, and that minority television ownership stands at 2.6% “and is dropping fast.” Further, he says minority radio ownership is “stagnant at about 5%.” The data cited is from October 2015.

“Today, although people of color often appear in front of the camera and in front of the microphone, they are seldom found in positions of authority behind the camera and behind the microphone …. This wasn’t an accident,” the report states. “Diving into dusty old cases, this article exposes how the FCC, for five decades, openly, deliberately, and shamefully discriminated against minority broadcasters, making it virtually impossible for them to obtain access to publicly owned broadcast spectrum.”

Using the first sentence of the Communications Act, which expressly provides for the FCC’s administration of the spectrum “without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex,” Honig bemoans the fact that “by 1950, minorities owned zero radio stations but had owned, at various time intervals since the early 19th Century, over 3,000 (mostly weekly and a few daily) newspapers, as well as several magazines.”

In his view, “That feat was made possible by the fact that there was no ‘Federal Newspaper Commission’ … to confer licenses on preferred customers and deny licenses to second-class citizens….Had [broadcast licenses] been apportioned through a random lottery, rather than through a gatekeeper, think of how different – and how much better – America would be.  If we had enjoyed diverse media ownership in the 1940s, we would never have had to undergo the 1950s.”

A remedy to decades of what Honig views as problems could be addressed by the FCC through a “Minority Ownership Summit,” which would “fully expose the harm the agency did and develop remedies tailored to the nature and extent of the harm—remedies designed to ensure that the awful history detailed in this article can never happen again.”


Wish to read the entire law journal article? Click here to download it!

SJPJ FCC Minority Ownership, 12 SJPJ 44 (2018)


RBR+TVBR RELATED READ:
Is The FCC Incubator Program Destined To Fail?

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