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Starks Laments State of Ownership Diversity

Only 2% of commercial FM stations are majority owned by Black individuals

“This is not a report card that I’m proud to announce to Americans everywhere.”

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks was talking about the recent report on ownership of broadcast stations, which the commission released last month.

Speaking to the Media Ownership Diversity Symposium, hosted by the FCC Communications Equity and Diversity Council, Starks said, “I am passionate about making sure that the media ecosystem accurately reflects our American society. We have a lot of work to do.”

When it comes to commercial FM stations in the United States, the report found that in 2021, 9% were majority owned by women, up two points from 2019. Only 2 percent of stations were majority owned by Black individuals, unchanged from two years prior, and 1 percent were majority owned by Asians. Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaskan Native registered at 0%. As to ethnicity, 5% of commercial FM stations were majority owned by Hispanic/Latino individuals, the same as in 2019. The numbers in television were similarly disappointing, he said.

“Knowing those numbers benefits policymakers, industry players and advocates,” Starks said, according to his prepared remarks released by his office.

“That’s why I’ve long pushed for us to resume our collection and release of broadcast workforce data as well — as Congress intended us to do under our EEO requirements. Not just owners shape the content, perspective and decisions of our media — so do employees.”

He said it’s appropriate that the council is also exploring trends beyond broadcast as well, including streaming.

“Americans get their content from a myriad of sources, and it’s critical that all content reflect the diversity of this country. Don’t get me wrong — I continue to believe in the reach and power of broadcast — but particularly when we’re thinking about growth and access to capital, newer formats and platforms are a powerful place to establish a next generation of media leaders who accurately reflect our community.”

He said the need for content to appeal to all audiences has been “accompanied by a rise in minority and female creators — Issa Rae and Quinta Brunson come to mind — and their programming has rightly raked in the accolades. I want to see this rise continue, and to see it mirrored across the media ecosystem, including owners and C-suites.”

Starks is one of the two Democrats currently on the FCC.