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Minority Groups Upset With FCC

Commission says it’s committed to making a difference

Many minority advocacy organizations were hopeful they’d see movement on their media ownership and diversity priorities once the Obama administration took office. But in the opinion of some of those organizations, change hasn’t come, or come fast enough.

Twenty-three national civil rights organizations — including the NAACP, Latinos in Science and Technology Association and Native American Journalists Association — have written the Federal Communications Commission about what they see as the agency’s slow progress in increasing minority station ownership and acting on equal employment issues.

The groups, which wrote to the commission on the same topic a year ago, say minority radio ownership has declined by 9% within the last three years and that minority radio journalism employment has plummeted to less than 1%. They sent a multi-page letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The groups also say a proposal for multilingual EAS broadcasts — from Spanish Radio Association, United Church of Christ and the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council — has not been acted upon, “although 140 other” EAS-related items have been addressed, MMTC noted. These are but a few of the items mentioned in the letter.

Asked for a response, FCC spokesman Robert Kenny told Radio World, “We are committed to upholding and fostering the civil rights of every American and remain focused on truly making a difference in people’s lives — to spur opportunities for people through policy initiatives that harness technology and adapt to a changing communications landscape in America.

“This FCC has made great strides in this area,” Kenny continued, “from its work with Comcast and NBCU and fixing key provisions in the Sirius-XM merger to working with Congress to resolve a significant dispute over Arbitron’s Portable People Meter service.” The latter refers to the issue, now resolved, over whether the PPM undercounted minorities.

The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council also said the proposed rural radio item — to be voted on next week by the commissioners — would make it “even more difficult for radio owners with inferior technical facilities, a condition affecting most minority broadcasters, to survive by moving their transmitters closer to their competitors’ in-market stations.”

While he declined to delve into specifics, Kenny said the March commission meeting would build on the agency’s civil rights efforts as its addresses “real-life issues and concerns facing Native Americans and finding new ways to bring 21st century technologies to their communities. We will continue to push forward with strong, sensible ideas that will actually make a difference.”