FCC Schedules Daylong Diversity Forum

The FCC will host a daylong symposium on media diversity March 7.

It will come a day after minority advocates are meeting in Washington for the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council Broadband & Social Justice Summit in Washington, an event that often features FCC commissioners weighing in on the state of diversity.

While TV and radio ownership definitely under-indexes for minorities in the overall population, the FCC will be accentuating the positive business positives, featuring "success stories" for small and women-owned media operations and giving attendees a chance to network with panelists and FCC staff.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has long pointed out that minorities weren't in the room when free broadcast licenses were handed out, and NCTA-the Internet & Television Association President Michael Powell has seconded that, saying that one of the best ways to raise the diversity profile in media is to get minorities in the room and at the table when deals are getting done, which is about access and relationships moreso than structural remedies.

Appropriately for a broadband symposium, it will be streamed over the internet for public consumption--9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at www.fcc.gov/live.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has been criticized from some interest groups and Hill Democrats for decisions like restoring the UHF discount and reversing lifeline broadband subsidy eligibilities which they argue hurt broadcast diversity and lower-income residents, many of whom are minorities.

The FCC last August voted to approve the framework for an incubator program, which Pai has long pushed for, that will grant stations media regulatory relief if they successfully help minority or female owners to buy a full-power station, or put struggling owners on firmer footing.

The FCC is under a court mandate to consider diversity when adjusting its rules, but But Pai has said that "every American should have the opportunity to participate in the communications marketplace, no matter their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation."

"This is a timely and important discussion," said Adonis Hoffman, chairman of Business in the Public Interest. "With competition in programming and other opportunities for minorities from big tech, broadcast should have great incentive to open up more to diverse ownership. And the FCC is key to that progress."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.