Originally published: July 30, 2008
Last updated: July 30, 2008 - 7:54pm
On July 29, the Federal Communications Commission held an en banc hearing and conference on overcoming barriers to communications financing.
Commissioner Michael Copps identified a starting point: "We agree on the overarching goal of supporting more minority and female ownership among the communications industries we regulate-media, of course, and telecommunications more generally. So the question is not whether to encourage more ownership-at least I hope that's never the question!-but how to encourage it and by using what combination of private and public resources. Second, I think we all recognize that access to capital is a huge barrier to entry and that we need to find ways to bring aspiring entrepreneurs together with meaningful capital. So I'm looking forward to learning a lot more today about why those barriers exist and what options might be available to tear them down." But he also identified a "San Andreas Fault" -- on one side those who have identified increased media ownership concentration as a barrier to diversity in media ownership; on the other side, the FCC's proposed policies have favored increasing media ownership concentration. He said, "It is absolutely essential that we work toward race-conscious remedies if we are serious about reversing the sad state of minority ownership."
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said the FCC has a responsibility to take affirmative steps to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, and nationality. The FCC's founding charter, he said, "requires us to take affirmative steps to promote diversity of ownership, because, in America, ownership is the key to having your voice heard."
Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate said she would continue to press on ten fronts including 1) tracking investments and the performance of investments by gender, race, and ethnicity; 2) encouraging investors to make diversity a priority in their overall portfolios; 3) creating programs to educate and prepare women to lead fast-growth businesses; 4) researching investors treatment of women and minority-led ventures; and 5) establishing internships for women and minorities.
Commissioner Robert McDowell raised concerns that FCC regulation could harm the business of broadcasting. "In particular, the localism proposals we are currently considering, if enacted, would, ironically, result in less of the local programming and service at which minority and women-owned stations excel."
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