MMTC Wants Broadcasters to 'Afflict the Comfortable'

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision they see as
severely undercutting the Voting Rights Act, the Minority Media and
Telecommunications will call on their friends in broadcasting to keep a
spotlight on voting issues.

That is according to MMTC president David Honig, who said at
MMTC's annual Access to Capital conference in Washington Tuesday that his group
would be pushing broadcasters to do for voting rights what they did back in
1964 (when the Act was originally passed), which was to "afflict the
comfortable and comfort the afflicted."

Honig, who was being interviewed by a panel of journalists
about advancing the group's diversity agenda at the FCC, said that the
commission had historically had "feet of clay" when it came to
diversity and entrepreneurship opportunities for women and minorities. He said
acting chair Mignon Clyburn was wonderful, and clearly understood the
importance of the issue -- she is the first African-American woman to chair the
commission -- but that there was only so much she could do as acting chair.

He also suggested the future could be brighter, saying that
the president's nominee for chairman, Tom Wheeler, had a "long and
illustrious career in diversity."

But he also pointed to proposals that had languished for a
decade or more at the commission, including a media incubator proposal still
pending after seven dockets and more than 10 years, and the "no
urban" and "no Spanish" ad dictates that the FCC finally cracked
down on over 20 years after that was first proposed, and even then there had
yet to be a case brought under the new ban. He called that a "sort
of" victory.

Honig said that one of the dozens of MMTC diversity
recommendations that might actually be acted on at the FCC was extending the
minority/women business procurement reporting requirements. Since 1993, cable
operators have been required to report annually to the FCC on the degree to
which they procure goods and services from minority and women businesses. Honig
says there is no reason the FCC should not extend that reporting requirement to
all media, including broadcast, phone and satellite.

He counted as a victory a public notice issued last week
seeking input on whether minority and women businesses promote competition in
the wireless space and whether the wireless competition report should include the
competitive status of women and minority businesses. Who are the broadcasters
that have our interests at heart, he asked (also pointing out that after the
promise of decade ago when there were Bernie Shaw and Max Robinson anchoring
major newscasts, there were none today).

Honig countered that the fact that some
broadcasters might not be permanent friends didn't mean they should not be
cultivated as temporary ones. But he said broadcasters are friends for two main
reasons: 1) The audience they need advertisers to target via their service is
increasingly minority and female and 2), beyond the business case, there was a
moral case for serving minority and women audiences. He said that is the moral
framework that distinguishes this country from others, and that broadcasters
care about more than profit, and journalists even more so.

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.