Diversity in Media Ownership

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.

Blog Posts

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Press Releases

  • FCC Approves Sinclair-Allbritton Deal Minus Shell Games

    July 24, 2014
    Washington — On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission approved Sinclair Broadcast Group's $985 million acquisition of several Allbritton TV stations, along with NewsChannel 8 in Washington. The final deal is far different from the one Sinclair initially proposed in July 2013. And today’s FCC approval came only after Sinclair was forced to alter the deal in response to opposition by Free Press.
  • FCC Moves to Curb Runaway TV Consolidation

    March 31, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission moved for the first time in three decades to roll back media consolidation.

  • Free Press Hails FCC Plans to Expose Covert Consolidation, Promote Broadcast Diversity

    March 6, 2014
    WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the agency will take a closer look at television station "sharing arrangements." These agreements allow a single conglomerate to control multiple stations in the same market, skirting FCC rules that are supposed to preserve independence and diversity on the airwaves.
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News from Around the Web

  • Under Pressure, FCC Stops Asking Questions About Media Diversity

    March 14, 2014

    Late last month, the FCC announced the end of its “Critical Information Needs” (CIN) pilot study. The study, which was supposed to have been field-tested in “ethnically diverse” Columbia, S.C., was going to explore whether local news outlets were meeting the information needs of their communities—in particular, people of color and women. The CIN instead met a “quiet” end as FCC watchers described it, following a raucous blitz.

  • Welcome to Oakland, Mr. Wheeler

    New America Media
    January 9, 2014

    It’s rare you get the chance to talk about media and technology’s impact on your life with someone who actually can do something about it. But this is exactly the opportunity Oakland residents will have when Tom Wheeler, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, takes part in a town hall meeting on Jan. 9 at Preservation Park at 7 p.m.

  • Something's Happening to Local News

    Baltimore Sun
    November 7, 2013

    So far this year, 223 local TV stations have changed hands. This is the biggest wave of media consolidation ever — and it's all happening in small and mid-level markets, involving companies most people have never heard of.

Learn More

  • Fighting Media Consolidation

    The more independent outlets a community has, the more different viewpoints will be presented on the air. But what happens when there’s no one left to compete?
  • Covert Consolidation

    When you turn on the nightly news, you expect to find competing viewpoints and different perspectives from one station to the next. But in communities across the country, stations that were once fierce competitors have cut staff and merged their newsrooms, in many cases airing the same content on multiple stations in the same market. You can try to change the channel, but all you'll see is the exact same newscast.

  • Rupert Murdoch Scandal

    There are many reasons the scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has riveted public attention around the world. It's a story that features all of the classic elements: crimes, betrayal, abuse of power and even a cover-up.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good