The Madison Avenue Initiative

Millions could be at stake as minority media outlets face an ongoing "blackout" from national advertisers

study, who presented his findings at the summit.

Ofori says the study concluded that advertising dollars seemed to go to the stations that had the highest household incomes. However, he counters, "The fact is that you cannot predict consumer patterns based solely on household income. Census data has clearly shown for some time that blacks, for example, outspend all consumers in a number of product categories."
The report also shows how discriminatory practices adversely affect the financial viability of minority-owned stations:

  • Minority radio station owners estimated that 61% of the advertisements purchased on their stations were discounted. The average discount was 59%.
  • Minority radio station owners estimated that "no urban/Spanish dictates" and "minority discounts" reduced their revenues by an average of 63%.
  • Forty-four percent of the radio stations surveyed for the report said discriminatory polices interfered with their ability to raise capital and acquire other minority-formatted stations.
  • Forty-four percent of the radio stations surveyed for the report said "no urban/Spanish dictates" and "minority discounts" detract from the value of minority-formatted stations when they are being sold.

"Clearly if we’re not permitted to compete on a level playing field, if we continue to be discounted or not counted at all in the cases where they say ‘no urban’ and ‘no Spanish dictates,’ then we cannot make the kind of money that our white competitors can and have made," says Sutton. Because minority broadcasters unfairly receive less revenue, they are caught in a v
icious cycle that prevents them from producing and promoting their stations’ products, from expanding operations to meet community needs and from buying more radio stations to challenge competitors, adds Sutton, who is also chairman of the National Association of Black-owned Broadcasters.

In an effort to break the cycle, he says that black and Hispanic radio, magazine and newspaper owners have formed a coalition that will fund the establishment of a National Action Network (NAN) Madison Avenue Initiative, which will be headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton. "We hope to glean information from the advertising agencies themselves, from the advertisers and from the minority media outlets so that we can compare notes and determine how much money we’re losing," says Sutton. "What we want to know is how much money is being spent, by whom, against what products and where. Armed with that information, we can then begin to ratchet up the attention being paid to minority media."

Sharpton has been called many things in his life. Rest assured the words "shy" or "demure" have never come up. Call him what you will-troublemaker or civil rights bulldog-Sharpton has established himself as someone who can draw attention to a situation in a hurry. That’s exactly what he did last year when the Katz memo dropped in his lap.

Sharpton says he obtained it last May after receiving a phone call from an employee at a white-owned radio station in New York that targets black listeners. The employee claims

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