A coalition of public interest organizations sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski yesterday, calling on the Commission to make increased diversity in the media and broadband communications landscape a top priority. The groups issued the following joint statement:
“Historically marginalized communities still face countless barriers to their own members' provision and ownership of communications services. The Communications Act instructs the Commission to examine these barriers and take steps to eliminate them. This Commission has taken strides in this area, yet much work remains to be done to address persistent and growing digital divides.
"We urge the Commission to implement better data-gathering practices regarding the ownership of media outlets by minorities and women, and to examine diversity in pending proceedings at the Commission. For instance, we ask that extensive studies be conducted regarding the potential impact of the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC Universal on the diversity of voices in ownership and programming.”
The signatories to the letter include Afro-Netizen, Alliance for Community Media, Benton Foundation, Prof. Angela Campbell of Georgetown Law, The Center for Media Justice, Center for Rural Strategies, Free Press, Main Street Project, Media Access Project, Media Alliance, Mountain Area Information Network, National Alliance for Media Arts & Culture, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, Public Knowledge, Reclaim the Media, Texas Media Empowerment Project, United Church of Christ Office of Communication, Inc., and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
March 8, 2010
Hon. Julius Genachowski
Federal Communications Commission
445 Twelfth Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Re: Ex Parte Submission
GN Docket No. 09-51 (National Broadband Plan)
GN Docket No. 10-25 (Future of Media)
MB Docket No. 07-294 (Broadcast Diversity)
Dear Chairman Genachowski:
The undersigned organizations have long fought for increased diversity in the media and
communications landscape, including the increased representation of people of color and
women, so that the composition of our public discourse, news, entertainment, and
communications infrastructure might truly reflect our nation’s rich cultural fabric.
Today, we renew our call for the Commission to continue making increased diversity a
top priority, in fulfillment of your statutory mandate to “promote the policies and
purposes” of the Communications Act that “favor[ ] diversity of media voices, vigorous
economic competition, technological advancement, and promotion of the public interest,
convenience, and necessity.”1
As you know, Congress requires a review every three years of the Commission’s efforts
to promote opportunities for “the provision and ownership of telecommunications
services and information services” by entrepreneurs and other small businesses.2 Section
257 instructs the Commission not only to report on any “market entry barriers for [such]
entrepreneurs and other small businesses” but also to eliminate such barriers.3 The
Commission’s emphasis in such endeavors must include enhancing representation in
media and telecommunications for typically marginalized communities and underrepresented
populations. Thus, Section 257 must be read in conjunction and in harmony
with the Commission’s obligation to promote the dissemination of licenses to “businesses
owned by members of minority groups and women.”4
Twenty-three civil rights and media reform organizations recently wrote you to express
concern that communities of color still face numerous barriers to entry of precisely the
kind that Section 257 directs the Commission identify and address.5 These barriers to diversity have of late only grown larger, due to a variety a factors including economic
recession, industry practices and public policies that have ignored or even widened the
digital divide, and increased concentration in media and telecommunications ownership.
We note at the outset that, according to the Commission’s website, you have circulated an
item to the full Commission to begin the mandatory triennial Section 257 inquiry.6 A full
two months later, this critical item remains pending. We call upon all of the
Commissioners to focus on the pending Section 257 item, and urge your continued
leadership in quickly facilitating a vote on this item.
You have championed initiatives to spur availability of broadband and adoption in
communities of color and Native American communities. As always, the undersigned
applaud the Commission for its ongoing efforts to bring attention to and then resolve such
issues. We join our friends and colleagues at Native Public Media and the National
Congress of American Indians in lauding the Commission’s decision to establish a new
“Tribal Priority” in the broadcast licensing process that should result in new Tribally
owned radio stations. Similarly, you announced last week new Commission efforts made
part of the National Broadband Plan to increase broadband adoption in Tribal
communities, and indicated that the plan will recommend considering expansion of the
Tribal licensing priority policy to fixed and mobile wireless licenses.7
These kinds of decisions fulfill the goals of Section 257 and other provisions in the Act
by promoting diversity, localism, access, adoption, new entry, and the public interest.
We also congratulate the Commission for appointing Mark Lloyd as Associate General
Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer, and encourage you to rely on his immense talent,
experience, and expertise in these matters. Nevertheless, we are compelled to note that
much work remains – both in implementing the National Broadband Plan and in an array
of Commission proceedings – to continue promoting equal opportunities for all
Americans, including people of color and other historically under-served communities.
For instance, the Commission should act promptly to set a new filing date for the revised
ownership Form 323. Since 1998, the Commission has required broadcast licensees to
report race, ethnic origin, and gender data on Form 323 to (1) allow the Commission to
determine accurately the state of minority and female ownership, (2) determine the need
for measures designed to promote ownership by minorities and women, and (3) gauge the
success of any such measures adopted by the Commission.8 Many of the undersigned organizations, as well as others, have pointed out deficiencies in the Commission’s
information-gathering on these topics. For example, in detailed studies and comments
filed in 2006 and 2007,9 signatories to this letter demonstrated that the Commission
collected data in a way that it made it unusable for its intended purposes. Thus, in May
2009, after soliciting extensive public comment, the Commission revised Form 323 to
obtain more accurate data on minority and female ownership and set November 1, 2009,
as the filing date for the revised form.10 The Commission subsequently extended the
filing deadline several times while it responded to petitions for reconsideration and
comments filed at the OMB, and set a new deadline of January 11, 2010. Then, after a
meeting with industry representatives who complained about technical difficulties with
the electronic filing, the Commission suspended the filing date indefinitely.11
Given the Commission’s commitment to make decisions that are “fact-based and data
driven” the Commission should take immediate steps to address any remaining technical
problems and set a new filing date for Form 323.
Other issues in both the media and broadband sectors are likewise most worthy of the
Commission’s renewed attention. Such attention and action must include explicit
recognition that the decisions made in these proceedings will have a direct impact on
communities of color and others who still face obstacles to participation. The
Commission will soon launch its 2010 quadrennial media ownership review – hopefully,
to be informed by the new data that collection of Form 323 will yield. We call on the
Commission to address in that review and its Future of Media proceeding the structural
barriers that historically and presently hinder people of color and women from owning
broadcast stations, and echo the demand for increased inclusion of representatives from
such communities in Commission workshops on these issues.
We also urge the Commission to examine closely the impact that the proposed Comcast-
NBC joint venture would have on diversity of media voices and ownership opportunities.
The proposed combination could make barriers to entry even higher for people of color
and women seeking to own broadcast or cable outlets, or those who supply video
programming and online content for such outlets, by allowing the creation of an even
larger and more powerful, vertically integrated media gatekeeper.
Within the context of the National Broadband Plan, we agree that the Commission must
focus explicitly on proposals to increase adoption and close intractable digital divides.
To accomplish these aims, the Commission must increase competition in the broadband market, and also must transform the Universal Service Fund to provide explicit support
for broadband deployment and adoption through changes to the High Cost, E-Rate, and
Finally, we ask that the Commission move forward on the National Hispanic Media
Coalition’s petition of inquiry requesting study of the growing presence of hate speech on
our public airwaves and the impact of such discourse on our society.
All of these issues are of paramount importance and must not be set aside while the
Commission focuses on other tasks. We would welcome an opportunity to continue this
discussion with each of the Commissioners and Commission staff, and look forward to
fostering a dialogue in which the undersigned groups and our allies in the civil rights
community can be assured that issues affecting people of color and women will receive
the Commission’s focused attention. It is critical to our national interests for the
Commission to address, expressly and head-on, the readily apparent lack of diversity
throughout our media and communication systems.
Alliance for Community Media
Prof. Angela J. Campbell, Georgetown Law
The Center for Media Justice
Center for Rural Strategies
Main Street Project
Media Access Project
Mountain Area Information Network
National Alliance for Media Arts & Culture
National Association of Hispanic Journalists
National Federation of Community Broadcasters
Reclaim the Media
Texas Media Empowerment Project
United Church of Christ,
Office of Communication, Inc.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group
/s/ Matthew F. Wood
Matthew F. Wood
Media Access Project
1625 K Street, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20006
cc: Commissioner Michael J. Copps
Commissioner Robert M. McDowell
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker
1 47 U.S.C. § 257(b).
2 Id. § 257(a).
3 Id. § 257(a), (c).
4 Id. § 309(j)(3)(B); see also Section 257 Report to Congress, Report, 15 FCC Rcd 15376, ¶ 55 (2000).
5 See Letter from Asian American Justice Center et al. to Hon. Julius Genachowski, GN Docket No. 09-
51 (filed Feb. 16, 2010).
6 See FCC Items on Circulation, http://www.fcc.gov/fcc-bin/circ_items.cgi (last visited March 8, 2010)
(noting January 8, 2010, circulation date for “Section 257 Triennial Report to Congress Identifying and
Eliminating Market Entry Barriers and Other Small Businesses”).
7 See “Chairman Genachowski Highlights Strategy for Increasing Broadband Access in Indian Country,”
Release (Mar. 2, 2010), available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-
296644A1.pdf; Prepared Remarks of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to the National Congress of
American Indians, Mar. 2, 2010, available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-
8 1998 Biennial Regulatory Review—Streamlining of Mass Media Applications, Rules & Processes;
Policies & Rules Regarding Minority & Female Ownership of Mass Media Facilities, Report & Order, 13
FCC Rcd 23056 (1998).
9 See, e.g., “Out of The Picture 2007: Minority & Female TV Station Ownership in the United States,”
http://www.freepress.net/files/otp2007.pdf; Comments of Office of Communication of the United Church
of Christ, Inc. (“UCC”), the National Organization for Women Foundation (“NOW”), Media Alliance,
Common Cause, and the Benton Foundation, MB Docket No. 06-121, at 11 (filed Oct. 1, 2007).
10 Promoting Diversification of Ownership In the Broadcasting Services, Report and Order & Fourth
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 24 FCC Rcd 5896, ¶ 12 (2009).
11 Promoting Diversification of Ownership In the Broadcasting Services, MB Docket No. 07-294 et al.,
Order, DA 09-2618, ¶ 1 (rel. Dec. 23, 2009).
Contact: Kamilla Kovacs
Media Access Project | 1625 K Street, NW | Suite 1000 | Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 202.232.4300 Fax: 202.466.7656