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Witnesses Set for House Media Diversity Hearing

The Witnesses are all lined up for the House Energy & Commerce Committee Communications Subcommittee's Jan. 15 hearing on media diversity, or lack thereof.

Related: House Dems Tee Up Media Diversity Legislation

On tap to testify are Maurita Coley, president and CEO of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council; Clint Odom, senior VP of the Washington Bureau of the National Urban League; Catherine J.K. Sandoval, associate professor, Santa Clara University School of Law; and Diane Sutter, president and CEO of ShootingStar Inc.

The hearing, “Lifting Voices: Legislation to Promote Media Marketplace Diversity," is a response to what the Democratic committee leadership characterizes as "wide consensus that ownership of traditional media distribution outlets broadcast and multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) - by women and people of color is very low."

The legislative hearing will consider four bills:

H. Res. 549 "resolves to "reaffirm the commitment of the House of Representatives to media diversity and pledges that Congress will work with media entities and diverse stakeholders to develop common ground solutions to eliminate barriers to media diversity."

H.R. 3957, the “Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act,” reinstates the FCC's tax certificate program, which gives companies a tax break for for giving minorities and women a chance to own stakes in media outlets. The tax certificate program was created by the FCC in 1978, but eliminated by Congress in 1995.

The bill also "requires the FCC to make recommendations to Congress for increasing the number of broadcast stations owned by women and members of minority groups and submit to Congress a report every two years that states the total number of broadcast stations that are owned by women and members of minority groups."

H.R. 5564, the “Enhancing Broadcaster DIVERSITY (Diversity and

Inclusion by Verifying and Ensuring the Reporting required by Statute Is Transpiring and Yielding) Data Act,” would require the FCC to review broadcast and cable EEO rules , prohibit the FCC from "substantially revising" EEO reporting requirements, and require a study of diversity data and make that data available to the public in a searchable database.

H.R. 5567, the “MEDIA (Measuring the Economics Driving Investments and Access for) Diversity Act,” would require the FCC to study market entry barriers for "socially disadvantaged individuals."

Under a remand by a federal court, the FCC is required to consider the impact of its policies on broadcast diversity when undertaking its upcoming quadrennial review of media ownership rules, now an even stronger mandate with the court's September decision to vacate earlier media deregulation by the FCC under chairman Ajit Pai because the FCC failed to adequately gauge its impact on ownership diversity.

The FCC has countered that it did gauge the impact of its 2017 broadcast deregulation on media ownership diversity and found it would have “no material impact.”

It told the court that its conclusion of no material impact on women and minority ownership diversity was reasonable, supported by “substantial evidence,” and was made with sufficient notice of that finding to the public and stakeholders.