With this report, Changes, Challenges, and Charting New Courses: Minority Commercial Broadcast Ownership in the United States, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) revisits the important topic of minority ownership of broadcast facilities. The agency, through its Minority Telecommunications Development Program (MTDP), has collected data on minority ownership since 1990, and issued reports annually from 1990 through 1994 and from 1996 through 1998. In 1995, NTIA published a report on the availability of capital for minorities trying to enter the broadcasting business. This report provides an historical perspective on minority ownership and an assessment of the impact that the recent trend of broadcast industry consolidation has had on minority ownership.

Our Nation has had a long-standing commitment to minority participation in the broadcast industry. Diverse voices contributing to public discourse is a fundamental element of our democratic society. The wave of broadcast mergers that swept through the industry following the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as well as emerging technologies have highlighted the need to examine the impact of business, legal, and technological changes on minority ownership.

Since 1990 when MTDP began collecting data on minority commercial broadcast ownership in the United States, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans have consistently been underrepresented among the Nation's commercial broadcast owners. Ranging from a low of 2.7 percent in 1991 to a high of 3.8 percent in 2000, minorities' ownership of commercial broadcast facilities has remained far below their estimated 29 percent representation in the U.S. population.

This year's report shows modest progress in some areas of minority commercial broadcast ownership. It also reveals, however, the continuation of some disturbing trends. The positive findings include:

Findings causing continued concern include: MTDP's efforts to compile data on minority ownership highlighted a critical issue -- how to define "minority ownership." Indeed, there is no current consensus on a definition. There are different definitions in past NTIA reports, at the Federal Communications Commission, Small Business Administration, and in legislation. Depending on which definition is used, well-known minority broadcasters are or are not included. This report underscores the need for certain issues such as equity ownership and control to be part of a revised definition.

In preparing this report, we solicited the perspective of minority owners and have provided an overview of the continuing challenges that minority owners confront as they attempt to acquire advertising, gain access to capital, and improve employment opportunities for minorities. This report discusses the reasons why many minority owners as well as others in the industry support the reestablishment of a tax certificate program, and NTIA urges further exploration of proposals to restore this program. The report also highlights industry-led efforts to train minorities for careers in broadcasting and to facilitate access to capital, which have provided a positive contribution to advancing the goal of increasing broadcast diversity.

In part to address these challenges, broadcasters are increasingly moving beyond traditional single station ownership and embracing new management and ownership arrangements. In addition, many broadcasters are adopting new technologies to redefine how they broadcast their material. These efforts afford new opportunities for minority owners and potential ways for us to ensure diversity of viewpoints over our Nation's airwaves.