PxPixel
Diversity Groups PUSH FCC On Civil Rights - Broadcasting & Cable

Diversity Groups PUSH FCC On Civil Rights

FCC counters that it has made ‘great strides,' with more to come
Author:
Publish date:

The
Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, joined by Rainbow PUSH, NAACP
and others are telling the FCC that the status of civil rights issues at the
commission is even worse now than last year, when most of the same groups wrote the FCC to
complain about the state of minority ownership then. They want a meeting with
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to air their grievances.

A
commission spokesman strongly disagreed with the letter's characterization
of the FCC on the issue.

In a
letter dated Feb. 22, the groups said that no progress had been made on
minority entrepreneurship and equal employment issues. They pointed to
a number of things, including the FCC's 2011 budget, which they said cuts
funding to diversity offices, funds new diversity studies at only half the
level needed and limits that research to broadcasting, rather than including
telecom, particularly telecom auctions, where those groups have been pushing
for help in bidding against large incumbents.

"We
respectfully request an opportunity to meet with you to discuss the issues
raised in this letter," they wrote. "With less than two years
remaining in the President's term, there's not a lot of time left to reverse
the tailspin in which minority businesses, entrepreneurs, employees and
executives in media and telecom find themselves."

"This
FCC has made great strides in this area," said FCC spokesman Robert Kenny,
"from its work with Comcast and NBCU and fixing key provisions in the
Sirius-XM merger to working with Congress to resolve a significant dispute
over Arbitron's Portable People Meter service."

The
diversity groups have been pushing for the diversity studies for a decade, but
said the narrow focus on broadcasting, "appears to be writing off forever
the possibility of ensuring that minorities and women will be significant
licensees of wireless spectrum." The FCC has asked for $1 million for studies of new market entrants that includes diverse entrants, and got $1 million to fund media ownership review studies it will use to help decide what, if any, changes need to be made to current rules. An FCC source pointed out that it was the first time in more than a decade that the FCC considering funding such studies.

They
also pointed out that two FCC offices with trimmed budgets were the Office of Workplace
Diversity and the Office of Communications Business Opportunities, which it
said were the only offices with "substantive responsibilities" to
whose funding was cut.

An FCC source speaking on background said the budgets were not being cut, and that the allocations for both would actually increase by a combined $230,000.

They
said the commission also has not submitted a diversity report to Congress 14
months after it was due; has acted on only one of 72 minority
ownership proposals then before the agency; took no EEO actions for a year
and a half; has designated no compliance officer for its 2007 rule against
discrimination in advertising; and has taken no action on a petition to make
emergency broadcasts multilingual.

"We
are committed to upholding and fostering the civil rights of every American and
remain focused on truly making a difference in people's lives," said
Kenny, "to spur opportunities for people through policy initiatives that
harness technology and adapt to a changing communications landscape in
America."

He says
there is more action coming next month. "The Commission's March meeting
will build on these efforts as address real life issues and concerns facing
Native Americans and finding new ways to bring 21st Century technologies to
their communities. We will continue to push forward with strong, sensible ideas
that will actually make a difference."

FCC and diversity
have been in the news lately after House Republicans amended the stopgap
continuing resolution budget bill to defund the FCC's chief diversity officer,
Mark Lloyd. He ran afoul of Republican legislators when he was first appointed
back in 2009 over past writings critical of conservative talk radio.

Related