Good morning. Thank you for coming this morning to help with what we at NTIA think is one of our most important projects - an effort to try to determine what has happened to minority broadcast ownership since the passage of the Telecommunications Act.
The intense interest in today's roundtable discussion demonstrates the level of concern about decreasing opportunities for minority ownership of traditional broadcast media. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 eliminated the restriction on the number of stations an owner may control nationally and relaxed the local market ownership caps. Consequently, consolidation within the industry has increased.
High station prices and scarce investment capital have challenged many minority broadcasters, making it difficult for them to compete or even remain in the business. NTIA's 1998 Minority Commercial Broadcast Ownership Report found that minorities owned only 2.9% of the country's 11,524 stations two years after passage of the 1996 Act.
Recent mega-mergers among broadcast, multimedia, cable, and telecommunications companies have accelerated consolidation and convergence of these traditionally distinct industries. As new technologies emerge in a rapidly changing industry, what opportunities do they provide for new entrants and incumbent owners to provide voices for the nation's many ethnically and culturally diverse communities?
Consolidation, convergence, and capital may threaten continued minority media ownership. NTIA is now preparing this year's report on minority broadcast ownership. We are gathering information for the report through several means, including this roundtable. Therefore, we have invited you here to share your diverse voices and views, and your best ideas, and to work with us to develop policies and programs that will improve the prospects for minority media ownership in the Information Age.
This roundtable and the afternoon workshops are a kick-off to a report to be issued later this year by our Minority Telecommunications Development Program. The report will be based on a survey being sent to minority broadcast owners, on the discussions from today, and from comments submitted in response to our Federal Register notice. Comments are due July 28, with replies due Aug. 8.
Among the issues on which we'd like some submissions from the public:
We ask these questions because it's critically important for the country's future to ensure that our airwaves remain accessible and available for all people to express their views, receive information, and enjoy entertainment that reflects their interests.
The ability of everyone to speak and be heard is a central tenet of
our democratic society. Minority ownership of broadcast facilities helps
to achieve that end.