FCC Pushes Forward With Diversity Data Gathering Changes
April 8, 2009 at 11:22 AM (PT)
At TODAY's FCC open meeting, the Commission approved a proposal to expand the number of stations required to file data about the ethnicity of their owners, which Acting Charman MICHAEL COPPS said commits the FCC to "getting independent and credible information to gird what I intend to be meaningful action to right the injustice" of a lack of ownership diversity.
The new procedure removes filing exemptions for full-power commercial stations owned by individuals or partnerships of matural persons, adds LPTV and Class A low power TV stations to the requirement, and broadens the scope of reportable interests to include minority interests in corporations with a single majority shareholder and interests in an eligible entity that would otherwise be attributable except for the operation of the higher Equity/Debt Plus attribution threshold applicable to financial interests in eligible entities.
...if we lack the data, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Today we are going to take that sorry excuse away.
The Commission also released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for comment on changes that would affect Ownership Reports filed by noncommercial stations by adding questions on gender, race, and ethnicity.
"The excuse not to do more was the same as it has been for years—that we lacked adequate data to do more. But if we lack the data, we have no one to blame but ourselves," said COPPS. "Today we are going to take that sorry excuse away."
Commissioner JONATHAN ADELSTEIN added, "Diversity in broadcast ownership is too crucial for the Commission not to get it right. If we are going to make progress, we must lay a solid foundation. The first step is obtaining a clear picture of where we presently stand. I am pleased that we are overhauling our current method of collecting data on minority and female broadcast ownership. We are implementing a complete, credible, and illuminative means of gathering racial and gender information. An improvement in the quality of information we receive will allow us to assess the impact of our rules and policies on minority and female-owned entities, as well as the opportunities that are available for these stations to serve the public. This type of accurate empirical evidence is the basis for making sound policy decisions, and is necessary for providing a Constitutional basis to make progressive improvements in diversity."
But Commissioner ROBERT MCDOWELL warned, "What today’s action does not do, however, is change our existing broadcast attribution rules. To do so now, in the midst of such economic uncertainty, would be foolhardy. As I continue to advocate for a regulatory environment that is more attractive to private investment, I am interested in hearing from commenters as to whether the changes to Form 323 would impose any inadvertent negative effects."