May 02, 2003

Congressional Minority Caucuses spoke out regarding the FCC's planned June 2 decision on media ownership rules, voicing concerns over the effect of media conglomeration on minority media ownership and programming diversity.

"The decisions of the Federal Communications Commission to ignore the impact that the proposed rules on broadcast ownership would have on America's minority communities is a glaring reflection of the FCC's disregard for procedure, due process and honesty," said Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez, chair, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).

In a letter to FCC Chair Michael Powell, members from the CHC, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) requested that the FCC "open its proposed rules to public and Congressional comment and to demonstrate that such rules address the principle of promoting minority ownership."

"By relaxing ownership rules, we risk the growth of media monopoly," said Rep. Robert Scott, CBC. "We only have to look at current ownership numbers to realize that we have serious problems with diversity in ownership."

According to a Department of Commerce study, minorities owned 23 full power commercial television stations by the end of the 1990s - 1.9 percent of the country's 1,288 licensed stations. Minorities owned only 4 percent of the country's commercial AM and FM radio stations in 2000.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, chair, CHC Telecommunications and Technology Task Force, speculated that a potential FCC proposal to allow media consolidation might include a so-called diversity index to determine if consolidation would be permitted, relying on Nielsen Media Research's Consumer Survey on Media Usage or similar measurement tools to determine the consolidation's impact.

According to Becerra, such research does not account for Spanish language media.

"If this is what's going to be used to determine whether media should be allowed to consolidate, where are the voices of the 13 percent of the population today which will grow to 25 percent of the population in the next forty years," asked Becerra. "And why should any advertiser spend money on Spanish language media if they don't even show up [in the research]?"

Becerra said that advertisers contribute only slightly more than 2 percent of their advertising to broadcasting that targets Latinos. "There is no way you survive in a very competitive media marketplace if you can't get the dollars that feed you and advertisers are what keep media afloat."

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