Watchdogs assail FCC on diversity


WatchdogsFree Press and the National Hispanic Media Coalition say that a recent FCC release on the level of minority and female broadcast ownership is very low did not come as any surprise at all. They say what is surprising that the FCC is considering any sort of deregulation without examining its impact on further diminishment of ownership diversity.

Free Press noted, “The FCC’s data indicates ownership of broadcast radio and television stations by women and minorities remains at abysmally low levels. The FCC’s data shows that women own just under 7 percent of all full-power commercial radio and television broadcast stations, while racial and ethnic minorities control only 5 percent of these TV stations and 8 percent of these radio stations. If accurate, these data are largely in line with Free Press’ studies from 2007, Out of the Picture and Off the Dial, until today the only thorough accounting of female and minority broadcast ownership.”

NHMC had similar remarks. It stated, “According to this data, the number of Latino-owned media outlets is dismal, especially in light of the fact that Latinos make up over 16% of the U.S. population. In 2011, Latinos only owned 39 out of 1,348 full power commercial television stations, a mere 2.9 percent. Latinos owned only 2.7 percent of FM radio outlets. Latinos didn’t fare much better in AM radio, once thought to be a key entry point for people of color, owning only 172 AM radio stations out of 3,830, or 4.5 percent. Ownership by women, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Indians was similarly bleak.”

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron commented, “The FCC has been gathering this data since 1999, and this is the first time they’ve attempted to issue a comprehensive summary. Media diversity is such a low priority for the FCC that it took 13 years for the agency to issue a potentially accurate ownership count. It’s baffling that the FCC is ignoring the court’s instructions and rushing to further water down its cross-ownership rule without fully evaluating the impacts of doing so on female and minority ownership.”

Aaron noted that two of the biggest beneficiaries of a relaxation of cross-ownership rules would be Rupert Murdoch and Sam Zell, and concluded, “Why is this FCC contemplating a giveaway to the nation’s largest media conglomerates when much of the rest of the industry has turned away from the failed consolidation model? Why would the FCC push forward a plan that has no purpose and little support when it could do so much harm? Why does this agency keep dodging the issue of diversity when they have the power to actually do something about it?”
NHMC Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs Jessica Gonzalez added, “I commend the FCC for releasing this data, but it is a day late and a dollar short. The data alone does not account for the impacts that proposed rule changes would have on ownership by woman and people of color. If this data shows anything, it is that current media owners do not reflect the diversity of this country. And at a time when media conglomerates like Clear Channel Radio are profiting handsomely from hate speech against women and people of color, it is deplorable that the FCC would even consider relaxing rules in a way to make it easier for Clear Channel to push its discriminatory vitriol to even more stations on the radio dial.”

Reports on the contents of the quadrennial review would indicate that there will be no change in local radio ownership caps.