FCC hears that media consolidation has constrained minority ownership

[via RadioInk]

During last night’s FCC public hearing on media ownership in Tampa, Glenn Cherry, president and CEO of Tama Broadcasting talked about some of the obstacles faced by African American broadcasters. Cherry said that in the past, "Some advertisers wouldn't advertise on our stations at all and others would vastly discount the value of African American consumers. We call that the black tax."

On minorities moving into ownership positions, Cherry said, "We paid higher costs for our stations. The cost of capitol was higher for us and the return on investment was less than the general market.”

Cherry continued, saying, “The 1996 telecommunications act allowed unprecedented consolidation in the industry changing the ownership landscape to the detriment of minority and small broadcasters (along with) new entrants.

"The maturing consolidation of the broadcast industry and the economic instability of the post-9/11 environment made it difficult for African America (and) small broadcasters to compete in the marketplace.

“In a down economy we struggled to effectively compete against larger companies that were consolidated almost eight to ten years before we got started. They are ruthless in their pursuit of total domination of the advertising revenues in our markets and will engage in unethical and illegal anti-competitive behavior if necessary.

"Ownership of radio stations by small broadcasters is a labor of love. We are a training ground for many minorities and we have two women market managers during a time when the industry has not promoted women in great numbers to upper management.

"The ownership numbers of African American's in this country is less than two percent. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 directly caused this loss of diversity of ownership. As a result many small owners found themselves unable to compete and sold their stations to larger competitors instead of just going out of business.

"By owning only 11 stations, Tama is one of the largest Black-owned radio groups in the country. This is not an achievement of which the radio industry should be proud.

"Because of the serious under representation of minorities in the ownership of broadcast stations and the increasing minority population numbers, the Commission can best promote its first amendment obligation by making promotion of minority ownership of broadcast facilities its primary objective in the media ownership proceedings."

Meanwhile, in his opening statement, FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin addressed, among other things, diversity, saying, “The Commission has three core goals that our rules are intended to further: competition, diversity and localism. I recognize many of the concerns expressed about increased consolidation and preservation of diversity. Also critical to our review is exploring and understanding the competitive realities of the media marketplace. Some of our rules have not been updated for years and may no longer reflect the current marketplace. Indeed, the Third Circuit recognized this fact when it upheld the Commission's elimination of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban. It is our task then to respond to the court by ensuring that our ownership rules take into account the competitive environment in which media companies operate and promote localism and diversity.”

Commissioner Michael J. Copps commented, “No business, no broadcaster, owns an airwave in the United States of America. They’re yours. Broadcasters do get the privilege of using those airwaves, and in return for a license, they pledge to serve the public interest – to bring you good local news, information and entertainment; to bring you a diversity of issues, cultures and viewpoints; and to provide entertainment that reflects your diversity, interests and creative genius.”

Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein said of last night’s hearing in Florida: “It is the Commission’s job to implement your right to a diverse media market, and your right to receive, share and exchange a diversity of news, information, and music. Our ownership rules are supposed to nurture, promote and maximize competition, localism and diversity – not just preserve the bare minimum. What better way to find out whether the media is fulfilling your expectations of the American people and their obligations under the law than to go out and listen to what you have to say.”

And Commissioner Robert M. McDowell added, “The debate over broadcast ownership is concerns the vitality of our democracy and the appropriate balance among competitive efficiencies, diversity of voices and local focus. I’ve learned quickly that this debate elicits the opinions and passions of people from all walks of life from all over our nation. We need the first-hand knowledge that only you can provide about the sources you rely upon for news, information and entertainment so that we can analyze today’s media marketplace and determine if and how our rules should change.”

article originally published at http://www.radioink.com/HeadlineEntry.asp?hid=137738&pt=todaysnews.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey