Michael Copps and fellow Democratic FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein say that a just-released study showing few TV stations owned by women or minorities argues against further easing of the broadcast ownership restrictions.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps called the dearth of women and minorities among TV station owners a “national disgrace” and said the FCC must “do something” to increase their numbers.
Copps and fellow Democratic Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said the study also suggests that the FCC should halt its rulemaking aimed at easing broadcast ownership restrictions and putting more stations in fewer hands.
The comments came in reaction to a study released today that finds that only 5% of TV stations are owned by women and just 3% are owned by minorities.
“There is something terribly wrong when women and minorities comprise such substantial parts of the U.S. population, but own so few TV broadcast stations,” said Copps during a conference call tied to the release of the study by Free Press, a group that shares Copps’s opposition to easing FCC broadcast ownership restrictions.
“This isn’t just a problem,” Copps said. “This is a national disgrace.”
The lack of minority ownership contributes to the “distorted” image of women and minorities and to the scant attention paid to their problems, Copps said. “So it’s time to be frank and fess up: Unless and until we do something targeted to increase minority ownership, our communications sectors will continue to underserve the great promise of America.
“If we want our ownership of media to look like the diversity of our people, we have no business at the commission moving ahead and allowing further consolidation,” he said.
Adelstein, also on the conference call, seconded Copps’s remarks.
“A bad situation has gotten worse, while the FCC has sat idly by and done nothing,” Adelstein said.
“We have a legal and moral obligation to take immediate steps to make broadcast media and broadcast coverage more diverse,” he said. “This study shows that allowing more media consolidation will only aggravate what is already a pitiful lack of minority voices over the airwaves.”
Formally launching its fight to stop the FCC from easing broadcast ownership restrictions and allowing further concentration of broadcast stations, Free Press released its study—Out of the Picture: Minority and Female TV Ownership in the United States—just prior to the conference call.
The study was apparently timed to coincide with the FCC’s acceptance of the first round of comments in the ownership proceeding. However, the FCC yesterday pushed back the due date for those comments until Oct. 23.
“This study should give the FCC pause,” said Derek Turner, research director of Free Press and one of its authors. “Before it goes ahead with any rules changes that will increase media concentration it should fully study and consider the impact of these changes on female and minority ownership. The evidence shows clearly that further consolidation…will obstruct and reduce female and minority ownership of broadcast television stations.”
Mark Cooper of the McGannon Research Center is the other co-author. “For years, we had good qualitative evidence of the linkage between ownership concentration and the lack of minority ownership,” he said. “This is the first study to show that relationship directly.”
Among the study’s key findings:
- Women compose 51% of the entire U.S. population, but own only 4.97% of all stations.
- Minorities make up 33% of the entire U.S. population, but own only 3.26% of all stations.
- Hispanic- or Latino-owned stations reach just 21.8% of the Latino TV households in the United States.
- 92% of African-American TV households are not reached by a black-owned TV station.
- While the level of female and minority ownership has advanced in other sectors since the late 1990s, it has worsened in the broadcast industry.