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Broadcast Station Ownership Diversity Severely Lacking

(Image credit: Future)

WASHINGTON—The vast majority of broadcast station ownership in the U.S. is still made up of white men, per the most recent data from the FCC’s fourth biennial report on broadcast station ownership, which represents how things looked in 2017. Prior to this report, the last bit of information available was from 2015.

The reports detail station ownership among full-power TV stations, Class A TV stations, low power TV stations, and AM and FM radio stations, both commercial and non-commercial.

For commercial TV stations, as of Oct. 1, 2017, only 6.2% of the 2,725 stations were owned by women—73 full power (5.3%), 19 Class A (5.8%) and 76 low power (7.4%). Numbers were slightly better with non-commercial stations, with women owning 13.2% of the 429 stations, but no Class A stations among them. These numbers are actually down across the board for women from 2015.

Hispanic/Latino persons owned 8.8% of commercial stations— 58 full power (4.2%), 45 Class A (13.6%) and 137 low power (13.4%)—but only 8 non-commerical stations (five full power, no Class A and three low power), for 1.8%. Levels were generally flat between 2015 and 2017 for Hispanic/Lations.

Other racial minorities—which include American Indian/Alaska Natives, Asians, Black/African-Americans, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders and persons of two or more races—owned 2% of commercial stations and 3% of non-commercial stations.Black/African-Americans own the most commercial TV stations among racial minorities with 239 of the 2,725 (8.8%); American Indian/Alaska Natives’s 58 non-commercial TV stations (13.5%) lead the way in that category. Full power and low power TV station numbers were down in this group, but slightly up with Class A stations.

The full report on broadcast ownership is available online.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Stark called the results “striking—but not surprising” in an official statement.

“I have said it before: America’s broadcasters must look like America,” said Starks. “We have much work to do—and it starts with us fulfilling our direct order from the Third Circuit to implement a data program that would help understand the impact of our regulatory efforts on the ability of women and people of color to own stations.”

He also said that it is unacceptable that in 2020 we are operating off of data that is more than two years old, and they must be better at gathering this data in a timely manner.