FCC Media Ownership Report Underscores The Agency’s Historical Exclusion of Black People

Late Friday, the Federal Communications Commission released its fifth report on the ownership of broadcast radio and television
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WASHINGTON — Late Friday, the Federal Communications Commission released its fifth report on the ownership of broadcast radio and television stations in the United States.

The data, drawn from 2019 Form 323 filings required of broadcast licensees, show a dearth of broadcast-station ownership by Black people: Only 1.3 percent of U.S. full-power commercial TV stations were Black-owned in 2019. This figure is even lower when accounting for stations where the nominal owner does not operate the station.

Black ownership levels in broadcast radio were not much better: Only 2 percent of commercial FM stations were Black-owned, a figure that declined from the FCC's prior count. The level of Black AM radio ownership improved slightly since the FCC's prior count, but was just 3.3 percent. Black people make up more than 14 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2020 census data.

The FCC data also indicate that people of color own just 6 percent of the nation’s full-power TV stations, 7 percent of commercial FM radio stations and 13 percent of commercial AM radio stations — even though they make up 43 percent of the U.S. population.

In comments filed to the agency last week, Free Press urged the FCC to fulfill its legal duty to promote diversity in media ownership. It also called on the FCC to conduct a racial-equity impact assessment that examines the FCC’s history of anti-Black policies and other discriminatory actions.

Free Press Senior Director of Strategy and Engagement Joseph Torres made the following statement:

“We already knew the historical scale of the FCC’s failure to promote diversity in ownership. These numbers only illustrate the depth to which the agency has fallen in fulfilling this commitment.

"The data tell a story about how FCC policies have continued to exclude the Black community and other communities of color from owning broadcast stations. Instead, policies have allowed for massive media consolidation that has left unaccountable media conglomerates in control of local broadcast stations. The FCC has been, and continues to be, the chief architect of an unjust media system that harms the Black community and other communities of color through stereotypical narratives.

“Free Press has repeatedly urged the FCC to fix its many policies that have caused major structural inequities in U.S. media. Over the summer, Free Press’ Media 2070 initiative joined Representatives Jamaal Bowman, Yvette Clarke and Brenda Lawrence to call on the FCC to address its history of racism and immediately initiate a more holistic proceeding to redress the harm the agency’s policies and programs have caused Black and Brown people. These ownership numbers only underscore the urgency of this effort. The FCC must examine every docket and decision to reveal how its policies discriminate against those most in need of better media representation.

“The current system is unjust and FCC policies are a primary reason structural inequities exist in U.S. media. It’s now up to the FCC to do everything within its power to stop excluding Black people from media ownership opportunities and adopt policies that create a more just media system that’s more accountable to the people it serves.”

Free Press is a nonpartisan organization fighting for people’s rights to connect and communicate. Free Press does not support or oppose any candidate for public office. Learn more at www.freepress.net.

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