FCC's Tate Pushes For Media Diversity

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FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate staked out some new territory at the FCC. Tate, who has been labeled the kids commissioner for her emphasis on issues like childhood obesity, told a Media Institute lunch crowd in Washington Wednesday she was still committed to kids, but also said that one of her goals was to push the FCC, Congress, and industry to do more to encourage media diversity.

She suggested there were informal and formal steps that could boost the participation of women and minorities both in front of the mike and behind the desk in the executive suites, pointing to statistics that while women are 51% of the population, they represent only 4.9% of station owners, with a similar disparity for minorities, a difference she called "troubling."

Among the possible steps the FCC could take, she said, including a proposal FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has been floating as well, which would allow TV stations to lease digital spectrum to small and minority-owned entities, who could program the channels and receive must-carry rights on cable, as well as public interest obligations.

She also said the FCC could re-establish the tax certificate program that gave companies a tax break for selling to minorities. Congress repealed that break in 1995, but before that it helped boost the ranks of minority owned stations from 60 to some 300, she said. A bill to do just that, H.R. 600, was introduced in January by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

Tate also said she supported modifying the FCC rules on attributable investments to allow minorities to raise more money.

Tate gave shout-outs to the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation for the efforts of its Leadership Summit, and to Clear Channel and the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council for a recent conference in Washington that brought together minorities and women with investors and broadcast executives.

Adonis Hoffman, general counsel for the American Association of Advertising Agencies, who is African American, called Tate's goal of pushing diversity "a breath of fresh air from the commission."

The Media Institute is a Washington-based media think tank supported by major media companies, including two new additions, Verizon and DirecTV, and one returning sponsor, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.