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Starks: Broadcast Ownership Report Still Shows Diversity Deficit

Geoffrey Starks
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (Image credit: Steve Balderson)

The FCC has released its fifth report on broadcast ownership, according to FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, and there is some slight improvement in the number of women and minority-owned stations, but the emphasis is on the "slight."

The number of women who owned full-power TV stations in 2019, the latest year for which the FCC has figures, was up from 73 to 77, but Starks points out that means women own only 5.6% of the total of 1,369 full power TVs.

The number of African American-owned TV stations was up from a dozen in the previous report (2017 figures) to 18 in 2019, or what Starks called an "anemic" 1%. But media diversity for Asian Americans went in the other direction, from nine full-power stations in 2017 to only 4 in 2019.

"The numbers don’t lie," said Starks, "we must ensure that ownership at broadcast stations better reflects the rich diversity of the communities that they serve."

Also Read: FCC's Geoffrey Starks: HBCUs Must Have Reliable, Affordable Access

Starks said one way to do that would be to support legislation, the Expanding Broadcast Opportunities Act of 2021, introduced by Rep. G.K Butterfield (D-N.C.), which would revive the FCC's minority tax certificate program, which gives media companies a tax break for selling broadcast properties to women and minorities.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) has also recently introduced HR 5056, the MVPD Tax Credit Program, which would give a tax credit to MVPDs and their over-the-top streaming counterparts for carrying diverse, including minority targeted, independent programming.

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.