Minority media groups criticize FCC for lack of support

Minority media outlets sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski criticizing the agency for failing to take any action to support minority-owned broadcasters and TV outlets.

This week, 23 civil rights groups and minority media organizations voiced their disappointment and frustration that the FCC has not done even the bare minimum to help such outlets survive.

Minority TV station ownership has decreased by 50 percent since 1999, they point out, and minority radio ownership has declined by 9 percent in the last three years. Minority radio journalism employment has fallen to less than 1 percent--the lowest level since 1950.

And minority ownership of wireless or cable systems is near zero, say the groups including the Spanish Broadcasters Association, International Black Broadcasters Association and Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"It is therefore unfortunate that, in 2009, the Commission failed to vote on any of the dozens of pending proposals to advance minority ownership and participation in the industries the Commission regulates," the letter said. 

For example, the FCC has not yet held a hearing on Arbitron's Portable People Meter technology that minority stations say undercounts their audiences. The FCC also has not voted to allow multi-lingual broadcasts of emergency information, something that would be essential in emergency situations like Hurricane Katrina.

The groups say the FCC also failed "to include even a mention of minorities or minority business enterprises in the December 2009 National Broadband Plan Framework--ignoring the transcripts from four staff workshops and two field hearings at which the witnesses focused on minority cyberpreneurship."

The FCC is required to submit a report every three years to look at eliminating market entry barriers for small businesses, but the groups say the FCC did not submit one in 2009. A request for comment from the FCC was not immediately returned.

Update: 6:15 p.m.-- Thomas Reed, director of the FCC's Office of Communications Business Opportunities, said via email, "We understand their concern and welcome their input. We share their commitment to a diversity of participants and viewpoints at every level in the communications industry, and closer to home, our own decision-making process."