It wasn’t on the agenda at last week’s American Women in Radio and Television’s Leadership Summit, but TV and radio’s shrinking ownership ranks came up often in sessions.
Consolidation’s impact on women in broadcasting doesn’t end with the obvious decrease in opportunities to occupy a corner office, according to members of the American Women in Radio and Television.
In radio, for example, consolidation has brought non-compete clauses that “imprison women in companies,” one sales manager pointed out during a during a question and answer session Friday with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. “This is harmful to working mothers,” she said, “I recently hired a woman who has had to take a home equity loan to get her through her six-month waiting period,” she said.
The session with Martin occurred during AWRT’s 2007 Leadership Summit in Washington. Although consolidation’s impact wasn’t on the official agenda, it came up time and again during sessions, particularly with members of the FCC, which will be reviewing its station ownership rules again in the coming months.
Martin urged the sales manager to use the FCC’s upcoming review of ownership restrictions to make the problem of noncompete clauses known.
Asked how he could justify further consolidation in the television industry, in light of the FCC’s effort to increase diversity in TV station ownership, Martin said: “I’m not sure the commission is trying to justify consolidation.” The FCC has an obligation, under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, to reassess its ownership restrictions, and their impact on the market, every two years, he said.
Martin is known to favor further consolidation in TV, but may not have the majority of commissioners he needs to change current rules.
About 300 women attended last week’s AWRT Leadership Summit, which featured panels on regulation, new media and leadership. Along with consolidation, another undercurrent—the improving health of AWRT itself—flowed in and out of the summit’s events. Thanks to a strategic plan it put into place in 2004, the group has erased what was once a $150,000 operating deficit and has begun forming a reserve fund. “We’ve never had that before,” said Mary Bennett, AWRT’s new board chairman and executive vice president of marketing at the Radio Advertising Bureau.
Bennett attributed AWRT’s newfound financial security to its decision to hire a management company to help run the association and to the strategic plan, which initiated the sale of sponsorships in the group’s monthly magazine, Making Waves, and at conferences and events. AT&T, Dove and Merrill Lynch and other companies have bought advertising, sponsored events or supported AWRT’s Empowering America PSA campaign, she said. AWRT has also been adding new chapters, with Boston and Atlanta coming online recently and a Washington, D.C. area group starting up this year.
“AWRT is poised for growth,” Bennett told members at a luncheon Friday where the association presented its annual Achievement Award to Frank Schurz, Jr., president of Schurz Communications.
AWRT, which currently has “upwards of 2,000 members,” according to Bennett, will put together a second strategic plan this year.