WASHINGTON - At the upcoming February 8 meeting, the Federal Communications Commission plans to have a presentation on the "status of the comprehensive reform efforts to improve the agency's fact-based data-drive decision making." Now twenty-five organizations, including the National Organization for Women, Rainbow PUSH, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Office of Communication, Inc. of the United Church of Christ, Media Access Project, and Free Press, as well as twenty academics, have called on the Commission to analyze and make available to the public data it has already collected showing the extent to which minorities and women own broadcast stations.
Concerned that its data on minority and female ownership of broadcast stations was unreliable, the Commission changed its data collection process in 2009. The Commission directed broadcast station owners to file revised ownership forms by November 2009. The Commission also promised to make the data available to the public in a database that could be verified, searched and analyzed.
The Commission subsequently extended the filing deadline to July 2010. Although broadcast station owners filed the information at that time, the Commission still has not made the data available to the public in a usable form and has been unable to say when it will be available for public use.
The most recently available data, now several years old, showed that minorities, which comprised 33% of the population, owned only about 8% of commercial radio stations and just over 3% of television stations. Women, who made up 51% of the population, owned just under 6% of radio stations and 5% of television stations.
Georgetown Law Professor Angela Campbell, one of the signers of the letter, notes that the FCC is currently reviewing proposals that could affect - either positively or negatively - the opportunities for minorities and women to own broadcast stations. She supports the Commission's goal of improving its data collection and decision-making processes, but "the Commission cannot make fact-based, data-driven decisions if the Commission and the public do not have the necessary data."