When you tune in to your local news, what do you see? Or more importantly, who do you see?
The typical nightly newscast often depicts people of color only via negative images of black men in handcuffs and Latinos invading our borders.
And women are vastly underrepresented in the news. 4th Estate's six-month study of 2012 election-year coverage found that major American newspapers and TV news programs featured up to seven times as many quotes from men than women. This held true even when “women’s issues” were the subject.
What happens when women and people of color are excluded from national conversations? Other people get to tell their stories … or the stories remain untold altogether.
This lack of accurate coverage — or of any coverage at all — relates directly to media consolidation. Mergers have kept female and minority media ownership at low levels:
Women comprise over 51 percent of the U.S. population but hold less than 7 percent of all TV and radio station licenses.
People of color make up over 36 percent of the U.S. population but hold just over 7 percent of radio licenses and 3 percent of TV licenses.
As consolidation cuts back on the number of TV and radio station owners, women and people of color have fewer chances to become media owners and promote diverse programming.
Thanks in large part to Free Press advocacy, the Federal Communications Commission dropped a recent plan to allow more media consolidation. At two other points in the last decade, a federal court had twice rebuked the FCC for failing to even measure ownership levels, as well as failing to ensure ownership opportunities for everyone. These rulings didn't stop former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski from floating another proposal to weaken the ownership rules in 2013. A Free Press-led coalition campaign helped push FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to scrap this proposal. Free Press is now pushing the FCC to create rules that truly promote the virtues of localism and diversity.