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WASHINGTON - Two Federal Communications Commissioners and a group of civil rights leaders today praised a new Free Press study for shining a light on the lack of female and minority-owned television stations in the United States.

The new study, Out of the Picture, criticizes the FCC for abandoning its responsibility to monitor and foster the diversity of media owners, while ignoring the impact of sweeping rule changes it has proposed.

"This is a very important study, but it is one that we should not have had to write," said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press and co-author of the study. "The FCC has the duty and responsibility to monitor and foster female and minority broadcast ownership. But the FCC has failed."

FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps -- who have crisscrossed the country over the past three years to attend numerous local hearings on media consolidation -- joined a press conference call today announcing the study's results.

"A bad situation has gotten worse while the FCC sat idly by and did nothing," Commissioner Adelstein said. "We have a legal and moral obligation to take immediate steps to make broadcast media and coverage more diverse. This study shows that allowing more media concentration will only aggravate what is already a pitiful lack of minority voices over the airwaves."

"There is something terribly wrong when women and minorities comprise such substantial parts of the U.S. population but own so few broadcast television stations," Commissioner Copps said. "This isn't just a problem. It's a national disgrace. This time the FCC needs to look before it leaps into another abyss. We just should not be voting again on changing media ownership rules unless and until we have tackled this problem and come up with initiatives to redress a crying national need."

The commissioners were joined on the call by civil rights leaders from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Council of La Raza, Rainbow/PUSH and the Minority Media Telecommunications Council.

"The findings here - the low levels of female and minority ownership - should be a national embarrassment," said Nancy Zirkin, deputy director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "And the fact that some on the recent FCC have been more interested in giving more power to those who already have too much, rather than addressing decades of discrimination and ensuring that the little guy will get a chance, should be a national scandal."

"This is a critical issue for our community," said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza. "Latinos continue to be severely underrepresented in the mainstream media in terms of employment, content, and ownership. This report confirms what we strongly believe — that increased media concentration has significantly exacerbated this situation and that increasing diversity in media ownership could help stem it."

"This attempt by the FCC to change ownership rules once again will result in too few owning too much, at the expense of too many," said Gary Flowers of Rainbow/PUSH.

"In addition to being morally wrong, the lack of minority ownership is anticompetitive and inefficient," added David Honig, executive director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. "It deprives America's television viewers of the entrepreneurial, managerial and creative skills of a third of the nation's people."

Women's and religious groups also reacted to the results of the study.

"There are so few women's voices on broadcast television, and part of the absence of women's perspectives stems from the absence of women owners," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "We are half of the population but only 5 percent of station owners. And the problem is getting worse -- the increasing consolidation of ownership is making women invisible."

"Today Americans are realizing that it is important that each of us own a stake in America," said Cheryl A. Leanza, managing director of the United Church of Christ, Office of Communication Inc. "Yet some of us are still being left out of the most influential industry America has produced to date. This study demonstrates something we already intuitively realize that the people running the media industry do not represent most Americans and are not based in our communities."

Read Out of the Picture: Minority & Female TV Station Ownership in the United States at www.stopbigmedia.com/files/out_of_the_picture.pdf

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