For Immediate Release
August 8, 2000
Contact: Morrie Goodman (202) 482-4883
Ranjit de Silva (202) 482-7002
Art Brodsky (202) 482-0019

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
LAUNCHES MINORITY MEDIA OWNERSHIP SURVEY

WASHINGTON-The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced today it has launched an unprecedented nationwide survey of more than 195 minority media owners as part of the Clinton-Gore Administration effort to help reverse a decline in minority commercial radio and television ownership and preserve diversity in the nation's rapidly changing broadcast industry.

The written questionnaire, which is also available on the Internet, will be used to assess the state of minority ownership. Its findings will be published in a new report scheduled for release this fall.

"Protecting diversity of media ownership is a top priority of the Administration and is important to our nation's future," Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said.

"It is imperative that the nation's airwaves remain accessible and available for all people to express their views, receive information and entertainment that reflects their interest," Mineta said. "Therefore, we must ensure that diverse minority ownership exists to achieve that important goal," he added.

"Although the convergence of traditional broadcasting and new telecommunications technologies may present new opportunities, consolidation of traditional broadcasting has raised concerns about the ability of minority populations to have a voice in the media," Gregory L. Rohde, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA administrator, said.

"NTIA's success in creating and advocating policies that promote broadcast ownership opportunities for minority entrepreneurs will depend largely on the quality of the information we receive from minority owners about their experiences in the industry," Rohde said, in stressing the importance of the survey.

"It is critically important that we hear first hand from minority broadcasters on their perspective,"
Rohde said.

NTIA's July 18 roundtable discussion, "Media Diversity: Minority Owners Conquering New Frontiers," underscored the urgency of gathering specific data of minority ownership in the country, Rohde said.

The roundtable discussed such issues as the criteria for defining minority ownership; changes in broadcast ownership since the passage of the landmark 1996 Telecommunications Act; legal and economic impediments, if any, to minority ownership and what policies government should implement to promote minority ownership. The roundtable discussion, the survey, and the public comments that NTIA is soliciting will provide significant input to the agency's new report on minority broadcast ownership, Rohde said.

He noted that a 1998 NTIA report on the subject found that minorities owned only 2.9 percent of the country's 11,524 stations two years after the congress passed the 1996 Act. That report also found that financial barriers, increased competition and high station prices were likely to be significant obstacles to new minority entrants to the broadcasting marketplace. In addition, media concentration was a likely factor to cause small broadcast station owners with less capital to leave the industry because they could not compete against group owners, the 1998 report said.

The questionnaire requests information that broadcast owners maintain in the regular course of business. It covers a broad spectrum of categories ranging from ownership structure to ethnicity and race and to government policies. Another major purpose of the survey is to analyze the impact of the 1996 Act on minority ownership and to assist NTIA develop policies and programs that will increase minority broadcast ownership.

The 1996 Act spurred a liberalization of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) restrictions on the number of stations an owner may control nationally and relaxed the local market ownership caps. As a result, Rohde said, consolidation within the broadcast industry increased, bringing new challenges for minority ownership.
 


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