WASHINGTON - October 2– Consumer groups slammed the Federal Communications Commission yesterday for its inability to accurately assess the true state of female and minority broadcast ownership. In filed comments, Free Press, Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America exposed how the FCC’s official research failed to account for the majority of the female- and minority-owned broadcast stations.
“It’s shameful that after months of taxpayer-funded research, the Commission still lacks the basic understanding of which stations are actually owned by women and people of color,” said Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America. “The FCC has no hope of conducting meaningful policy analysis using such inaccurate and incomplete information.”
Filling in the gaps left by the FCC, two landmark studies from Free Press — Out of the Picture and Off the Dial — expose the alarming state of female and minority ownership. While women comprise 51 percent of the entire U.S. population, they own less than 6 percent of all full-power radio and TV stations. People of color make up 33 percent of the entire U.S. population, yet own 7.2 percent of the broadcast stations.
“Our research found that any policy changes that increase media concentration will unambiguously cause a further decline in female and minority ownership,” said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press and author of the two studies. “If the FCC intends to uphold its mandate to foster media diversity, it should be considering polices that roll back consolidation — not increase it.”
FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has called for an independent, nonpartisan task force to address the minority media ownership crisis. The task force has been endorsed by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), as well as Rainbow PUSH Founder Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
“The lack of minority broadcast owners is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time,” said Rev. Jackson in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. “For too long others have spoken for us, and for too long the FCC has neglected to address how to increase minority ownership. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”
The FCC was ordered to address minority ownership issues as part of the landmark 2004 Prometheus v. FCC decision. In August, after nearly a year of inaction on the issue, Chairman Martin asked for public comment on a series of proposals on minority media ownership. However, the public was given just a narrow, two-month window — ending Oct. 1 — to weigh in on the complex proposals.
“In the rush to push forward its pro-consolidation agenda, the FCC did not give the critical issue of female and minority ownership the careful consideration it deserves,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. “We urge the Commission to take the time to produce an accurate assessment and establish the ownership task force devoted to promoting ownership diversity. We should be focused on getting it right, not racing to the finish line.”
Read the comments filed by Free Press, Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America: