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GAO: FCC Data on Minority Ownership Deficient

The Government Accountability Office concluded that minority ownership of media properties remains limited, but just how limited is hard to tell due to deficiencies in Federal Communications Commission data collection, including filling exemptions for some stations, noncommercial "inadequate data quality procedures" and problems with data storage.

But based on the limited data it had, the GAO said the key limiting factors were the high fixed costs, the size of the market and local radio- and TV-ownership caps.

The GAO concluded that "though smaller owners, including minorities and women, have opportunities to enter the media industry by way of Internet-based and niche publications, these groups continue to face long-standing challenges to the ownership of radio and television stations." It recommended that the FCC improve the reliability of its data so it could better assess its rules.

The report was created at the request of the House Commerce Committee.

The FCC countered that it has taken steps to boost minority ownership, and it would take whatever steps were necessary to improve the reliability of its data collection after it digests comments it sought on just that subject.

FCC Media Bureau chief Monica Desai, in a letter to the GAO responding to a draft of the report, pointed out that the commission recently gave eligible entities -- including small businesses and minorities and women -- more time to build facilities, as well as taking steps to boost access to financing.

House Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) said in a statement Friday that he was concerned about the data-collection issue. “If we are to foster further diversity in media ownership, we first need sound and reliable facts about the current state of affairs," he added.