Lloyd [Mark Lloyd, chief diversity officer at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC),] claimed in a remarkable 1998 essay that communications policies enacted by Republicans negatively impacted the civil rights of minorities–further arguing that two decades of Republican communications policies had compromised the gains made by the civil rights movement in minority ownership in communications, according to a report by CNSNews.com.
The bottom line: “The civil rights agenda has given way to the agenda of the commercial market,” wrote Lloyd. “The work of the civil rights community has suffered through a sustained assault by the right. The core of that assault is to deny funding to civil rights work, silence liberal voices, and set the agenda of public debate by an opposition that is better funded, more organized, and savvier about strategic communications.
However, a 1998 report from the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) concluded that FCC policies were not the primary reason for the minority gap in communications.
“Minority broadcasters are finding it increasingly difficult to compete,” the report concluded. “Access to capital remains one of the most significant impediments to ownership for minorities.”
The Past Is Prologue
A 2007 report sponsored by the FCC and acccomplished by researchers from Duke University found that while minority ownership had increased slightly, the reasons for the remaining gap between minority and white ownership was very much alive and well.
“Since the observed ownership asymmetries are economy-wide, they are undoubtedly linked to broad systemic factors,” the report said. “[T[he most direct explanation lies in unequal access to capital. Many businesses require individuals to sink substantial financial investments upon entry. This is likely to be especially true in media enterprises.”
The only way to change this, the 2007 report said, was to redistribute wealth or increase minorities’ access to capital markets. The report did not mention license terms, renewal procedures, or ascertainment.
“[I]n order to change ownership patterns we need to either change the aggregate distribution of wealth or otherwise increase access to capital markets,” said the report.