Diversity Without Regulation


Last month, the National Association of Broadcasters wrote every member of the U.S. Senate asking them to support a bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would foster market-based, voluntary measures to increase diversity in broadcast ownership.

NAB and Sen. McCain do not agree on every issue. Nonetheless, we strongly back the Telecommunications Ownership Diversification Act of 2003 and intend to lobby aggressively for its passage.

We have always believed that ownership diversity is good for localism and good for the business of broadcasting. There is no question that Sen. McCain's bill will go a long way toward helping underrepresented groups gain entrance into the ranks of mass-media ownership.

By providing sellers of telecommunications assets a tax deferral, the bill could make it significantly more affordable for sellers to divest broadcast properties to qualified small and minority-owned businesses. Moreover, the legislation would reducing the tax on gains from investment in certain small businesses, providing investors an incentive to consider them.

Increasing employment and ownership opportunities in broadcasting for underrepresented individuals has consistently been a priority of NAB.

For 23 years, NAB's Department of Human Resource Development has assisted stations in recruiting and retaining qualified personnel through programs like our Broadcast Career Center Web site. Each year at the NAB Convention, a Career Fair co-hosted with the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the Broadcast Education Association provides employers the opportunity to interview nearly 2,000 job seekers. A similar fair is held annually at the NAB Radio Show as well.

Through a partnership with Howard University in Washington, the NAB Education Foundation (NABEF) has pledged nearly a half million dollars to help train talented students in media sales. Most graduates of the NAB Media Sales Institute have landed jobs at some of the largest broadcast companies in America. Next month, we will graduate another 30, bringing to about 90 the number of minority and non-minority students who have benefited.

The Broadcast Leadership Training Program targets mostly senior-level women and minority broadcast employees from stations all over the country with an intensive MBA-style education program geared toward giving each person the skills needed to join the ranks of radio- and television-station ownership. At the upcoming June 9 NAB Service To America Summit, 18 exceptional broadcasters will graduate from the program, bringing to 58 the total number of BLT graduates.

The American melting pot has always been a land of opportunity, without regard to color, gender or creed. The time has come for Congress to embrace Sen. McCain's attempt at correcting past imbalances in media ownership. We urge swift passage of his legislation.