For Immediate Release
Tuesday, July 18, 2000
Contact: Ranjit de Silva (202) 482-7002
Art Brodsky (202) 482-0019


Discussion focuses on ways to preserve diversity in the nation's changing broadcast industry

WASHINGTON- Gregory L. Rohde, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, kicked off a historic minority media roundtable here today with a call to media leaders and policymakers to work together to reverse a decline in minority media ownership and help preserve diversity in the nation's rapidly changing broadcast industry.

The views and suggestions generated by today's roundtable discussion will provide significant input to a new report by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on minority ownership scheduled to be released this fall, Rohde, who is also NTIA Administrator, said.

"The intense interest in today's roundtable discussion demonstrates the level of concern about decreasing opportunities for minority ownership of traditional broadcast media," Rohde said, adding that high station prices and scarce investment capital have made it more difficult for many minority broadcast owners to compete or remain in business.

The landmark 1996 Telecommunications 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. "Consequently, consolidation within the (broadcast) industry has increased, raising challenges for minority ownership," Rohde said.

"Consolidation, convergence, and lack of readily available capital may threaten continued minority media ownership," Rohde said.

"As new technologies emerge in a rapidly changing industry, we have to look at what opportunities they provide for new entrants and incumbent owners to provide voices for the nation's many ethnically and culturally diverse communities," he said.

Rohde noted that a 1998 NTIA report on Minority Broadcast Ownership found that minorities owned only 2.9 percent of the country's 11,524 stations two years after congress passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The 1998 report found that financial barriers, increased competition and high station prices were likely to be significant obstacles to new minority entrants to the broadcasting marketplace.

It also found that 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 roundtable will discuss such issues as the criteria for defining minority ownership; changes in broadcast ownership since the passage of the 1996 Act; legal and economic impediments, if any, to minority ownership and what policies the government should implement to promote minority media ownership.