Many broadcasters are facing high debt service, economically-driven loss of revenue and loss of asset value. On top of that, according to National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters exec James Winston, minority broadcasters have been slammed by the introduction of a new ratings system and serious problems with debt holders.
Speaking at the FCC’s ownership workshop, he said Arbitron’s PPM ratings system was discriminatory, particularly against stations with young minority audiences, that it was hurting minority broadcast revenues, and that it needs to be part of the review. He noted the problems Arbitron has had getting the system accredited as well as the trouble it has run into with various state attorneys general.
He said that the already-low level of minority ownership is under threat by banks and finance sources. Some of them have received TARP funding, and yet are working to repossess minority-held broadcast licenses even while refusing to loan them the money they need to stay afloat through the current economy. He said they should be putting the money they received from taxpayers back to work by loaning it to those who need it.
Winston said part of the Review should be a careful examination of how much ownership interest financial institutions should be allowed to hold in a broadcast license.
He was generally against ownership consolidation, saying it makes it extremely difficult for a minority buyer to acquire a standalone station that would be going into competition with two or three station clusters – he said the lenders see that and just say no.
RBR-TVBR observation: One of the best tools for increasing minority ownership of broadcast licenses was the minority tax certificate. The FCC has no say in it – instead, it’s bogged down in Congress. This is a no-brainer – it helps minorities, and it’s a tax cut – so there’s stuff in it for both Democrats and Republicans to love. Get off your butts, Congress, and put it back on the books – now.