This week, amid the Federal Communication Commission's full court press to let the largest media companies get even bigger, Free Press released a new report, Out of the Picture. The study reveals that minorities own just 3% of all TV stations, yet they make up a third of the U.S. population. Women comprise 51% of the public, and own less than 5% of stations.
These disturbing facts accompany the colossal failures of consolidated corporate media that have tuned out coverage of the nation's most critical issues - leaving many Americans disengaged and misinformed. (Perhaps best summed up by "Young Turk" Cenk Uygur in this video clip).
Timid journalism, celebrity obsession, narrow range of debate and rampant commercialism have created a media system that is, in the words of Jon Stewart, "hurting America."
In industries like transportation and health care, the number of minority owners is nearly ten times higher than in the broadcast sector. And the percentages of businesses owned by minorities have increased over the past several years in nearly every sector of the economy except broadcast TV. If the FCC and Congress had done their jobs, this gap would not exist.
The current rules being pushed by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin would further erode independently owned media by allowing one company to own multiple television and radio stations, as well as the major daily newspaper -- all in the same local market. The already-dismal numbers for women and minorities would likely get even worse.
Some of the study's key findings:
-- Hispanics or Latinos comprise 14 percent of the entire U.S. population, but only own 15 stations, or 1.11 percent of all stations.
-- Blacks or African Americans comprise 13 percent of the entire U.S. population but only
own 18 stations, or 1.3 percent of all stations.
-- At the same time, there has been a marked decrease in the total number of black or African-
American owned stations -- dropping nearly 30 percent since 1998.
-- Asians comprise 4 percent of the entire U.S. population but only own 6 stations, or
0.44 percent of all stations.
-- There has been no improvement in the level of minority broadcast television ownership
since 1998, even as the total universe of stations has increased by approximately 12 percent.
-- Pro-consolidation policies enacted by the FCC in the late 1990s had a significant impact on
minority ownership, indirectly or directly contributing to the loss of 40 percent of the
stations that were minority-owned in 1998.
The two good guys at the FCC, Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein both oppose further consolidation and expressed outrage over the state of minority media ownership, calling it a "national disgrace."
During the study's announcement, civil rights leaders blasted the FCC for its failure to address the minority media ownership crisis. Gary Flowers of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition said, "This attempt by the FCC to change ownership rules once again will result in too few owning too much, at the expense of too many."
After months of silence, Chairman Martin finally announced that the FCC will conduct its first official public hearing on media ownership in Los Angeles on October 3rd. The chairman's likely path: Get the hearing over with, ignore the some 97% of public comments opposing consolidation, and like his predecessor Michael Powell, ram the new rules through at the behest of the largest media companies and at the expense of democracy.
The only way to stop him is to get every single person in this country who's fed up with the status quo to file an official comment with the FCC here. If we can get a million comments, we repeat our historic victory in 2003 when over 3 million people helped stop a similar effort at the FCC.
More information at www.stopbigmedia.com