Fighting Words for the FCC

Our nation’s capital is known for its bare-knuckle brawls.

Obama vs. Romney

Redskins vs. Cowboys

Reason vs. nuttiness

But last Thursday there was a smackdown of a different variety, courtesy of a debate on “Media Ownership and the Public Interest.”

The debate, which focused on the abysmal state of diversity in the media, pitted Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron and the Newspaper Guild’s Bernie Lunzer against the National Association of Broadcasters’ Jane Mago and Columbia University media policy scholar Steven Waldman.

The event at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum, co-hosted by the New America Foundation and the USC Annenberg Center, explored the gulf between America’s shifting demographics — and the incredibly puny numbers of women and people of color who actually own broadcast TV and radio stations.

The participants considered, among other things, the possible impact of a Federal Communications Commission plan to relax its media ownership rules. The proposal, Free Press has argued, would push more women and people of color off the airwaves — and amount to a giveaway for Rupert Murdoch.

An excerpt from Craig Aaron’s remarks follows below.

The FCC has looked the other way for decades and allowed consolidation and concentration again and again and again, and every time we’re told it’s just a little tweak, just a little change, this isn’t a big deal, the market is changing. And the results again and again and again are tens of thousands of working journalists losing their jobs. We’re seeing the numbers of minority owners, diverse owners, dropping.

… Very few people of color own television licenses. Very few women own television licenses. It’s 7 percent for women and 3 percent for people of color. … And the numbers are actually getting worse. TV stations owned by people of color have declined 20 percent since 2006. We’ve lost six minority-owned stations in just the last year. And now there are three — three — African-American owners of TV stations in the whole country.

Click here to view the full debate.

Pictured: Craig Aaron and Bernie Lunzer

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good