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Citizens Groups Ask FCC To Address Diversity



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

Lifeline/Link-up mechanisms.

     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.


Respectfully submitted,


Alliance for Community Media

Benton Foundation

Prof. Angela J. Campbell, 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.

U.S. Public Interest Research Group

/s/ Matthew F. Wood

Matthew F. Wood

Associate Director

Media Access Project

1625 K Street, NW, Suite 1000

Washington, DC 20006

(202) 232-4300

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, (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

296644A1.pdf; Prepared Remarks of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to the National Congress of

American Indians, Mar. 2, 2010, available at


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,”; 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

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