Jesse Jackson Pushes FCC on Minority Ownership

Late last week the Rainbow Push Coalition hosted a sold-out media and telecommunications symposium in Washington DC. The event brought together federal policymakers, media industry leaders, issue activists, academics and consumers to assess the future of American media. With a focus on the areas of broadband deployment, minority ownership, public broadcasting, and the representation of minorities in the media, the participants of the event made it clear that we are facing both a crisis and a set of exciting opportunities to foster a more local, diverse, and competitive media system.

“Too few people own too much of the media — and too few interests are being served as a result,” said Reverend Jackson. “Our quest is to mobilize people across this nation to democratize the airwaves and demand greater representation in the media. People see the world through the eyes of the media, but that world does no justice to the world that we live.”

Four of the five FCC commissioners were on hand at the event. FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin and Commissioners Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein, and Robert McDowell addressed the lack of diversity in the media in their panel presentations. But the FCC’s historic neglect of minority ownership in the media took center stage at the end of the event when Jackson called on Chairman Martin to launch a task force on female and minority media ownership, a proposal originally put forward by commissioner Adlestein.

While Martin spent the day focusing on small ways that the transition to digital broadcasting might make new channels available to small businesses that could be owned by people of color, Jackson called for a more sweeping response. Calling the state of minority ownership a “crisis” he pushed Martin to not move forward with any rule changes until the FCC addressed its long standing neglect of media diversity. With more than ten years of minority ownership proposals collecting dust at the FCC, Jackson again called for a panel to review the impact of further consolidation on minority ownership and said he was “looking forward to [chairman Martin] setting up that panel, and I would be anxious to serve.”

At a press conference after the event Commissioners Copps and Adelstein argued that we need immediate action to increase diversity in the media. “With the countdown apparently beginning for a new effort to relax [media ownership] rules, now is the time to mobilize again, mobilize as never before on this issue, and demand solutions that actually accomplish something meaningful for you,” said Copps.

Commissioner Adelstein added, “A comprehensive answer to the dearth of female and minority ownership can’t wait any longer. It is not enough to get a report. We need to act on policies that will improve this crisis before we act on any rules to further consolidate the media.”

This call for action was echoed by Congressman Bobby Rush who pointed out Congresses responsibility to address the “shameful” state of minority ownership. He argued that, while the proposals that Martin made were good, they mean little if he continues to let Big Media conglomerates gobble up locally owned stations. “The lack of women and minority participation in broadcast, wireless, and satellite companies is downright shameful,” he said. “It’s a sign, quite frankly, that Congress and the FCC simply do not care. It is virtually impossible to have diversity in media programming [ . . . ] if we don’t have diversity in media and telecommunications ownership.”

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