Civil rights groups are pressing FCC chairman Julius
Genachowski to finally commission court-ordered diversity studies before he
heads for the exit. The chairman is expected to leave within the next several
Genachowski agreed to hold off on voting his media ownership
proposal until a Minority Media and Telecommunications Council study
on the effects of cross-ownership rules was completed, but that is separate
from the series of diversity studies the FCC is supposed to conduct to inform
and justify diversity initiatives.
According to the groups, they have had meetings with FCC
staffers that indicate the studies are ready to be put out for public comment
on structure and methodology. They want that process to go forward ASAP, and
not to be trumped by a single study.
"While we support the Commission's apparent desire not
to rush to an imperfect decision in the Quadrennial Review docket," they
wrote, "we are concerned that the decision to await input from a single,
narrowly focused, study before the Commission makes a decision in the
Quadrennial Review docket could further delay the comprehensive studies."
The FCC has a congressional mandate to review the regs every
four years. It was supposed to weigh in by 2010, but proposed changes have been
held up by court challenges and decisions. The chairman wanted to vote his
proposal at least by the end of 2012, but concerns about the impact on
diversity held up that vote.
While the chairman attempted to bifurcate the studies from
his proposal to allow for the possibility of more newspaper/broadcast cross-ownerships
in top markets, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Rights and other
signatories to the letter argue the two cannot be separated and the FCC must
conduct the studies before taking any action on media ownership, which could
push any action on media ownership until 2015, which is when the groups expect
the FCC to be able to come up with policy proposals based on the studies.
"This is a chance for chairman Genachowski to ensure that
our media reflects the diversity of our nation," said Wade Henderson,
president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a
statement. "Women and people of color own only a pittance of the
mainstream media, and the FCC, through these studies, is poised to offer an
assessment of the barriers to ownership that account for this disparity. Given
the profound demographic shifts taking place in our country, the commission
should explore the impact that further media consolidation would have on all
Spokespeople for the chairmen were not available for comment
Also signing on to the letter were the American
Civil Liberties Union, Asian American Justice Center, Common Cause,
Communications Workers of America, National Urban League, NAACP, National
Council of La Raza, National Consumer Law Center, National Hispanic Media
Coalition, National Organization for Women Foundation, The Leadership
Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the United Church of Christ, Office of
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