WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission released an assessment of female and minority ownership of commercial broadcast radio and television stations. This is the first full census the FCC has completed.
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.
Despite the extremely low levels of female and minority ownership, the FCC is currently proposing relaxing its cross-ownership rule, which includes limits on ownership of television stations and newspapers in the same market. These appear to be the very same rule changes that former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin proposed in 2007 and that the public, Congress and a federal appeals court subsequently rejected. The FCC reportedly plans to vote on its latest round of proposed ownership rules before the end of the year.
In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit threw out the agency’s 2007 effort to weaken the cross-ownership rule. In its decision, the court instructed the agency to first evaluate the impact of any rule changes on female and minority owners, who historically have been underrepresented in ownership of radio and television stations, before considering rule changes. The data released today counts who owns what but fails to address the impact of rule changes or meet the court's demands.
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
“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.
“Providing a count of who owns what is the first step, but the FCC should not proceed with its proposed rule changes without answering those questions. Past research shows these communities are the ones that are harmed most by further consolidation, particularly the proposal the FCC is poised to adopt.
“It's even more appalling that the FCC could even consider these changes when its current members haven't participated in any official hearings on the matter. The public overwhelmingly opposes more media consolidation. In fact, the main beneficiaries of this change would be News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch and Tribune Co.'s Sam Zell.
"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?"