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Conyers & Co. Back Diversity Task Force

A trio of minority members of Congress’ political majority has called for the creation of a minority media-ownership task force, referring to the "disgracefully low levels of media ownership by people of color."

The call, in letters to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, came only a few days after the FCC got an earful at a media-ownership hearing in Chicago on the impact of media consolidation on diversity and only a few days before the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters holds its annual convention in Washington, D.C.

Making that call were Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), with backing by anti-consolidation group Free Press.

"It is unacceptable for the FCC to move ahead with plans to allow for more media consolidation without first addressing how to increase minority ownership," House Judiciary Committee chairman Conyers said in a statement being cited by Free Press in its push for creation of the task force. "I support commissioner Jonathan Adelstein's call for the FCC to create an independent task force to examine ways to increase minority ownership."

At the media ownership hearing in Chicago, Adelstein called for the creation of an independent committee to review the more than 40 policy recommendations of the FCC's diversity committee, saying that minorities needed to be owners, not just media "sharecroppers."

Martin has said that viewpoint diversity is a key FCC goal, and he has proposed allowing minorities to lease digital-TV spectrum from existing TV stations to allow them to start channels without the start-up costs of buying or building stations.