Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan to allow greater media consolidation in local markets could wipe out many of the remaining TV station owners of color left in the country.
According to the latest data, people of color own just over 3 percent of all full-power TV stations — just 43 of the nation’s 1,348 stations — despite making up close to 40 percent of the U.S. population. African Americans own just five stations. That’s only 0.4 percent of all commercial TV stations. And Latinos own 1.6 percent of all TV stations, despite making up close to 17 percent of the U.S. population.
But the FCC chairman doesn’t plan to deal with this media inequality. Instead, he wants to adopt rules that will make things worse.
This situation didn’t arise by accident. Decades ago, the FCC distributed our nation’s first radio and TV licenses predominantly to white men or big corporations. And the agency has resisted efforts through the years to democratize our nation’s media system or address its inequalities in any meaningful way. This has prevented people of color from being able to tell their own stories; instead, they’ve been marginalized in both news and entertainment programming.
Genachowski, a friend of President Obama from their days in law school, has shown no interest in ownership diversity. Indeed, Genachowski plans to adopt many of the same rules then-Sen. Obama and other Democratic congressional leaders voted to throw out when the Bush-era FCC tried to push them through in 2007.