Community, civil rights, labor: Keep media ownership protections

In November, the FCC announced that it was seeking to relax its ban on media cross-ownership, a move which many observers believe would increase corporate consolidation and further weaken opportunities for minority ownership. Despite a court remand of an earlier media ownership rule for failure to consider the impact on minority ownership, the FCC seemed determined to move forward without analysis of its newly-released data on minority-owned broadcast stations. Under pressure, the FCC solicited public comment on the new report.

In response, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights joined by 11 other organizations - including CWA, the ACLU, United Church of Christ, Urban League and National Council of La Raza - issued a letter to the commission. It didn't pull punches. It noted that civil rights groups have "... expressed our extreme disappointment with the Commission's failure to undertake the required analysis to create a set of rules that advance minority ownership."

Furthermore:

"... the newly-released ownership diversity data confirms that ownership rates by women and people of color are abysmal, and the Commission has not started, let alone completed, the studies necessary to adopt rules that would address low ownership rates and pass Supreme Court muster."

At the same time, Free Press issued its own comments, noting:

"There are now only five stations owned by African Americans,30 down 74 percent from the 19 black-owned stations in 2006. Thus, despite comprising 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans own a mere 0.4 percent of this country's full-power commercial television stations."

Free Press warned that relaxing the ban would only worsen matters. FCC surveys have demonstrated conclusively that "... increased media consolidation and concentration work to keep those numbers [minority ownership levels] low - harming rather than helping diversity of ownership, diversity of viewpoint, and the other public interest goals that the Commission's policies purport to serve."

The Leadership Conference Media/Telecommunications Task Force made it very clear what path the FCC must take to evaluate cross-ownership rules:

"The Commission should not move ahead with any changes until a credible, objective and data-based analysis of the impact of such changes on ownership by women and people of color is completed."

Re minority and female ownership in media (Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, December 26, 2012)

FCC Data Shows Abysmally Low Levels of Ownership for Women and Communities of Color (Free Press, Dec. 26, 2012)