Hilda Solis (D-CA) fired off a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his 8th Floor FCC colleagues requesting formation of "an independent task force to examine proposals to increase minority ownership" before engaging in any further rulemaking in the media ownership arena. "A minority ownership task force is needed because the number of minority media owners is shamefully low and has been neglected by the FCC for far too long," she wrote. "The FCC has simply failed in recent years to address this disparity in minority ownership According to studies conducted by the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Free Press, people of color own just 3% of all local TV stations and 8% of all local radio stations, even though they make up 35% of the U.S. population. These studies also found that minority owners are less likely to operate a station in more concentrated broadcast markets." She added, "The FCC cannot allow new media ownership rules to move forward and further potential consolidation to occur without first addressing minority ownership issues." According to reports, Solis’ efforts were echoed by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).
RBR/TVBR observation: Martin has advocated the leasing of DTV multicast side channels to minority programmers, and numerous proposals are out there to restore the old minority tax credit that used to apply to certain broadcast transactions. Commissioner Michael Copps (D) has often called the minority ownership situation a national disgrace. We’re not sure what exactly can be done legally about this, but look for this issue to become a heat-seeker if a Democrat takes over the administration in 2009.