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Groups Push FCC To Provide Easy Access To Minority Ownership Data

Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH and two dozen other groups have called on the Federal Communications Commission to release data on how many women and minorities own broadcast outlets.

Citing the agenda for the FCC's Feb. 8 meeting that includes a status report on the agency's "fact-based data-driven, decision making," the groups want to know why the FCC hasn't released data most broadcasters turned in in July and the FCC promised to make accessible and searchable online.

An FCC source said that remains a priority for the data.

While the groups conceded some of that info might be available in the Media Bureau database, they said it was not yet available in a "searchable, aggregated and cross-referenced" form and that Media Bureau staffers could not say when it would be.

The FCC revised its data collection process in 2009, seeking a November deadline, which was subsequently moved several times, ultimately to July 2010, after complaints about the ability to file the information in the FCC system.

"As the Commission considers how to improve the agency's fact-based, data-driven decision-making at its February 8th meeting, the signers to this letter are writing to express concern over the Commission's lack of comprehensive, reliable, and searchable information concerning the extent of broadcast station ownership by minorities and women," the groups said in a letter to the FCC commissioners. "Fourteen months have passed since the revised Form 323s were due to be filed. More than six months have passed since the revised Form 323s were actually filed. More than four years have passed since the problems with the earlier filing process were brought to the FCC's attention. Yet, the public still lacks meaningful access to the data in a searchable, aggregated, and cross-referenced format."

Among those also signing on to the letter was the National Organization for Women, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Office of Communication, Inc. of the United Church of Christ, Media Access Project, and Free Press.

An FCC spokesperson had not provided a comment at press time, but the FCC usually does not comment on letters before it responds to the parties who sent them.

 "This issue is a priority for the Commission and we are working hard to make the data available in a more easily accessible format," said a senior FCC official who asked not to be identified. "It should be noted, however, that the raw data is publicly available in the interim."

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.