Reacting to a new Free Press study on radio ownership, national women's rights and civil rights leaders joined two Federal Communications Commissioners in condemning the FCC for its failure to address the low number of female and minority media owners.
"We found that women and people of color control just one-eighth of the country's full-power radio stations despite comprising two-thirds of the population," said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press and author of Off the Dial: How Media Consolidation Diminishes Diversity on the Radio. "These results are stark and a cause for alarm. The FCC should be aware of the consequences before enacting any policies that could further media concentration."
As the FCC considers eliminating longstanding media ownership limits, Off the Dial exposes how these changes could hasten the disappearance of the few female- and minority-controlled stations on the radio. On a national teleconference today, FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps blasted the agency's pro-consolidation policies for pushing out female and minority owners.
"This study presents fresh and challenging evidence about the lack of female and minority ownership in the radio industry," Commissioner Copps said. "My fervent hope is that we can harness the shame of our failures and recommit ourselves to creating a media that reflects the diversity of the American people."
"Women and people of color have been left off the dial because the FCC has pursued policies that are far off the mark," said Commissioner Adelstein. "It is our legal and moral obligation to promote diversity in the public airwaves. But as this landmark report shows, misguided policies have concentrated radio station ownership in a few hands and denied two-thirds of the American people an opportunity to serve the needs of their communities. The Commission needs to thoroughly study this report and develop a comprehensive strategy to remedy this injustice."
Off the Dial found that the average local radio market has 16 white male-owned radio stations — but just one female-owned station and two-minority owned stations. Women own just 6 percent of all full-power radio stations, even though they comprise 51 percent of the population. People of color own just 7.7 percent of stations but make up 33 percent of the population.
"I commend Free Press for compiling this thorough report on the lack of diversity in radio station ownership," said Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.). "The incredibly low numbers of women and under-represented minorities that own radio stations — Latinos own just 2.9 percent, and women own just 6 percent of full-power commercial radio stations — run contrary to the public interest. This report demonstrates the problems associated with the increasing consolidation of media ownership. As the FCC re-examines media ownership rules, I urge them to pay close attention to this report and the disturbing statistics showing that we need more diversity among owners of radio and other media."
"All day, all night, all white, clearly does not represent the diversity of American culture," said Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. "When people of color own just 7.7 percent of radio stations but make up 33 percent of the population, we see how poor public policy decisions continue to lock more of the 'Rainbow' out of opportunities."
"Commercial radio may be one of the most unfriendly environments for women and people of color," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "Media consolidation has created an almost unbreakable glass ceiling at the top. The FCC must take action to promote more diverse ownership and end the white male stranglehold on the airwaves."
"Latinos own less than 3 percent of U.S. radio stations but make up 15 percent of the population," said Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "These alarming statistics suggest that women and people of color have very few stations available to serve the needs of the community. LULAC urges the FCC to do better."
Off the Dial shows that media consolidation is a barrier to ownership diversity. Female and minority owners are more likely to be local radio station owners and more likely to own a single station. Off the Dial also found that female and minority owners were more likely to have a female president or CEO and employ women as general managers.
"We are concerned about the status of the invisible majority," said Carol Jenkins, president of The Women's Media Center. "That women are acutely under-represented in ownership is part of the larger crisis of representation and participation in the media overall. In the case of radio, it's a pipeline issue: When 85 to 90 percent of general managers and program directors are men, women simply don't acquire the skills to run — and then own — radio stations."
"Our entire federal government, from the FCC to Congress and the courts, is to blame for the shameful lack of media diversity this important report reveals," said Mark Lloyd, senior fellow at Center for American Progress and chair of the Media and Telecommunications Task Force at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "We must begin to hold our representatives responsible for licensing who gets access to the public spectrum. And a licensing scheme that has locked out women and minorities since the early 1920s must be corrected to reflect America in the 21st century."
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