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November 03, 2008

Leading national Hispanic organizations called on President-elect Obama to make enhancing minority access to digital opportunities and media ownership an early priority of his new administration. In a joint statement sent to the transition team, the ASPIRA Association, Inc., Latinos in Science and Technology Association (LISTA), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU),
Institute for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly, Inc. (IPR/HE), and National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) outlined actions the new president must take, including affordable high-speed access, creation of minority media ownership opportunities through DTV sublicensing, and capacity set-asides on all multi-channel video platforms for national non-profit minority controlled broadcasters.

The statement calls on a four point media agenda:

1) Ensuring that the transition to digital television (DTV) creates new opportunities for minority ownership. Minority owned and controlled entities should be permitted to hold commercial and non-profit licenses for sufficient bandwidth to accommodate single streams of programming which are also required to be carried on multi-channel video services.

2) Creating a capacity set-aside on all multi-channel video platforms for minority owned and controlled non-profit entities that are not owned or controlled by a broadcast, satellite or cable interest.

3) Making 'Diversity of Voices' a key factor in all Communications. When considering mergers, spin-offs, license transfers and eligibility for public broadcasting funds, policymakers should move to policies which enhance diversity of voices from multiple sources in all media.

4) Embracing a national policy of affordable high speed internet. Lack of broadband availability exists in alarming frequency in America's urban and rural communities.

The groups urged President-elect Obama to examine the current landscape that through corporate consolidation and brand extensions has concentrated power in a small number of media giants. "Today there is little opportunity for growth of new and emerging minority-owned broadcast, satellite and cable programmers," said Ronald Blackburn, CEO of ASPIRA. "President-elect Obama must make 'Diversity of Voices' a top priority in all communications policy decisions and embrace a national policy of affordable high speed internet access for all Americans. Unless serious efforts are undertaken to create an antidote to media consolidation, we risk having our community's image, culture and its first amendment rights in the hands of a very few corporate powerhouses."

During the campaign, then-Senator Obama advocated for reduced length of television station licenses and more diversity in ownership of broadcast media. In a written statement to the Federal Communications Commission, a spokesperson for then-Senator Obama expressed the candidate's positions favoring shorter license renewal terms for broadcasters so that they would be subject to more public scrutiny, as well as criticizing the FCC for allowing broadcast consolidation.

"The election of President Obama is an opportunity for a fundamental change in the way children, public schools, and low-income communities are being prepared for the 21st Century," said LISTA National President, Jose Marquez. "Our country lags behind other nations in broadband deployment in an ever-changing global economy. President-elect Obama must take the necessary steps to ensure that every American has access to high speed internet service, and provide the necessary tools to enable children across
the country to consider careers in science and technology."

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