Crawford: FCC Will Tackle Media Ownership Early On, Broadband A Priority

Said the FCC's broadband plan is the future of diversity

Susan Crawford, special assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, gave a shout-out to broadcasters in particular and minority broadcasters in general Monday (July 20), saying the FCC would tackle media ownership issues "early on." But she also said broadband is where they and policymakers need to be focusing their attention.

"Millions of Americans rely on over-the-air broadcasting, she told a Minority Media & Telecommunications Conference in Washington. "The administration understands the important role traditional terrestrial broadcasting continues to play," she said, pointing to the high radio listenership of minorities, as one example of that importance.

The administration "seeks to encourage opportunites for minorities and women to own radio and television stations," she said, adding: "We support the expression of diverse viewpoints as fundamental to the health of our civil society."

Minority media play a critical role in ethnic communities and bringing minority issues to the forefront of our national discussion, she said.  She also reminded her audience that new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had "pledged that media ownership issues will be addressed early on."

Crawford echoed criticisms of the FCC made internally and externally, saying it is, "sorely lacking in fine-grain, good data."

She said the administration was "seeking to obtain more accurate, reliable and comprehensive data," which would "significantly aid" long-standing policy goals to enhance minority ownership of the media.

She also said that the FCC's diversity committee would be a key advisor in the coming months.

But Crawford also said that the FCC's broadband plan is the future of diversity. She said that the plan would be drafted "out of the K Street orbit," saying they were trying to open the process up. "This is the chance to talk about our future as a country...and the importance of the diversity of voices informing those policies."

She said the FCC very much wanted to make sure all the voices are heard in the debate, though FCC broadband czar Blair Levin, later at the same conference, said that the voices so far have been long on aspiration and short on blueprints for action in a short time frame and within budget.

Levin confirmed that the FCC was looking for an open process, with online participation and a series of workshops to bring together parties that might otherwise only be meeting separately with commission staffers.

She said she hoped that it would turn out to be an empowering process that would change minds and drive policies.

Crawford also said the Small Business Administration was helping free up capital for small businesses. And she put in a plug for healthcare, saying that the administration understood that the issue affected small businesses, both because it was tough to afford to cover employees as well as challenging to attract employees away from larger companies. That hurts not only small businesses, but the innovations that can come from them, she said.