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07 Oct 2009

NABJ Supports FCC Diversity Post

Listed under: News

NABJ Supports FCC Diversity Post

Julius Genachowski, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

We applaud your stated commitment to promote diversity in media ownership. And, as a 34-year-old organization of professional media workers that has pressed to achieve this goal across the industry, we realize that the FCC has encountered stiff opposition to some endeavors that would make the marketplace more inclusive.

The “chief diversity officer” named to the new post, we feel, adds substance to your promise to “expand opportunities for women, minorities and small businesses to participate in the communications marketplace.” Opponents of such endeavors have taken to the same airwaves that your efforts seek to open. We trust that you will not waver in your support for the diversity chief or the entrenched obstacles the FCC will surely encounter.

Those who own radio and TV stations determine precisely what programming is offered to the American public, who gets hired and promoted—and who gets rejected. What is remarkable is that as our population has grown ever more diverse, diversity of ownership of communications stations has narrowed dramatically. In fact, ownership patterns of media stations have slipped back to the level of the pre-civil rights days of the 1950’s. A 2007 report by the McGannon Communications Research Center stated, “African-Americans comprise 13 percent of the entire U.S. population but only own a total of 8 [TV] stations, 0.6 percent of all stations.”

During a 1995 White House visit, one of our NABJ members asked President Clinton about the effect that ending the FCC tax certificate policy had on African-American station ownership. The President said that regretfully, the effect of his action on the decline of black ownership had been “breathtaking.” This action coupled with the past administration’s policy has concentrated media ownership to an extent where people of color are hard to find.
With fair and steadfast leadership, the FCC can indeed prevail in its diversity efforts, not because success will be easy but because failure would be devastating to the pillar of open communications that strengthens our democracy.

We at NABJ stand ready to assist your efforts to ensure diversity in station ownership.

Sincerely,

Kathy Y. Times
NABJ President