FCC Hearing Broaches Media Ownership for Minorities - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

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When the FCC approved a controversial bid by Sirius Satellite Radio to acquire XM Satellite Radio for a reported $3.5 million in July, many in the broadcasting industry saw the approval as giving big media an advantage to form monopolies and shut out small minority-owned operations.

At a hearing at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem after the merger was approved, the five FCC commissioners were taken to task for that decision and others when minority broadcast owners, media brokers and investors gathered to discuss the barriers to communications financing for women and minority-owned broadcasting companies. The commissioners had scheduled the hearing to learn why those barriers exist and what options might be available to tear them down.

“The tsunami of media consolidation this country has been through over the past decade and more has been bad — very bad — for minority and female ownership,” said FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps who along with Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein dissented on the decision to approve the Sirius-XM merger. “But as we all know, the commission has taken a very different approach, actually pushing for more media consolidation rather than attempting to stem the tide.” He explained that the nation is approaching a minority population of one-third, but people of color own 3% of full-power commercial television stations.

“These numbers are disturbing to me as a woman, as mother of a daughter, as a policymaker, and as a consumer,” said Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, one of the three Republicans who voted for the Sirius XM merger.

Panelists identified certain solutions that could help increase access to financing to improve minority ownership. They ranged from repealing FCC rules and regulations that discourage investors, holding Arbitron, an audience radio research company, accountable for discrepancies when measuring young black and Hispanic audiences, and reinstating the Minority Tax Credit Policy, which initially ushered minorities into media ownership.

An FCC order promoting diversification of ownership in the broadcasting services adopted in December 2007 is expected to help minorities and women obtain access to capital but only minimally since the FCC didn’t adopt definitions other than “small business” to explain who can take advantage of these measures.

The December diversity order also planned to modify the equity-debt plus attribution rule and allow an interest holder to exceed the 33% ownership limit without triggering attribution.
The Equity-Debt Plus attribution rule too often “caused potential investors to cautiously avoid investments that might be combined to approach the ownership limit,” says Tate, a supporter of that modification.

“There is a lot of capital in the market place,” says Anita Graham, general partner with Opportunity Capital Partners. “Without the rules and regulations the capital will flow.”

Restoration of the tax credit is an issue panelists said would increase access to ownership. The passage of the Minority Tax Certificate in 1978 led to an increase of African American ownership. However, when a Republican-run Congress repealed it in 1995 and replaced it with the 1996 Telecommunications Act the

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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