Dems seek financial rescue of minority-owned broadcasters

by Silla Brush, The Hill

High-ranking House Democrats are urging the Treasury Department to prop up minority-owned broadcasters suffering from a lack of capital and lost advertising revenue amid the economic slump.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is leading an effort to convince Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to take “decisive action” by extending credit to this sector of the broadcasting industry.

Clyburn and other senior members, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), argue that minority-owned broadcasters are sound businesses, but that the recession could undermine the government’s efforts to diversify the airwaves.

A number of members from the Congressional Black Caucus signed the letter, too.

“While many jobs are at stake, a more important principle — the government’s fundamental interest in promoting a diversity of voices, including service to underserved communities — is severely threatened,” the members write in a draft of a letter that was scheduled to be sent Tuesday.

The letter comes as some of the biggest recipients of government bailout money, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, jockey to repay government bailout money. As banks seek a way out from the government’s restrictions, other industries struggle and seek government support. Some firms seeking to repay the government argue that the government’s restrictions have burdened their businesses.

The congressmen suggest the Treasury Department could provide access to capital to minority-owned broadcasters, which they say represent less than 7 percent of full-power radio stations and a “negligible” ownership of television stations.

“They are looking for continued access to capital to continue their otherwise fundamentally sound operations,” the members write.

The letter suggests Treasury could set up a credit facility specific to the industry, similar to the government’s efforts to support auto suppliers, or possibly set up a program for bridge financing and government-backed loans until the economy improves.

“In addition to the credit crisis, also weighing heavily on minority broadcasters is a significant decline in advertising revenues, particularly the loss of automobile advertising,” the congressmen write.

The members are asking for a meeting with the Treasury Department and minority-owned broadcast entities and representatives from the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters.

Other members signing the letter are Democratic Reps. Bobby Rush (Ill.), Edolphus Towns (N.Y.), Maurice Hinchey (N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), G.K. Butterfield (N.C.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) and Bennie Thompson (Miss.)

article originally published at The Hill.

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