The newly formed Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age met at FCC headquarters this week to begin developing recommendations for the commission to consider on enhancing the participation of women and minorities in the telecommunications industry.
The FCC-sponsored committee is charged with identifying policies and best practices to promote minority media ownership, enhance educational opportunities leading to a greater role for minorities in the industry and promote participation in new areas of the industry that are emerging as the result of digital technology.
In his remarks to the committee, FCC Chairman Michael Powell emphasized how important diversity is to the success of the industry. “While I hope and pray that everyone has a good heart,” he said. “I don’t want to count on it. I want to be able to convince American corporate culture that diversity is a business imperative.”
“You can’t afford in the modern era not to be a diverse organization. You will be the loser in the marketplace if you are not a diverse organization. You are a bankrupt government agency if you are not willing to promote the important objectives of an ever-diverse national society, and I think what we are going to try to do is take the experience from a cross section of the industry… to make that case, engineer that case and advance that case as greatly as possible.”
Coming from broadcast, cable and the telecommunications industry as well as associations, law firms and satellite television networks, those in attendance composed the new group’s executive committee. (For a list of members, visit: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-239278A1.doc.)
“Racial and ethnic minorities comprise about 30 percent of the U.S. population,” said committee chairperson and president of NetCommunications Julia Johnson. “And when you look at the current labor market data, it indicates that 80 percent of new jobs will be filled by women and minorities by the year 2010 and that by the year 2020, women will make up more than half of all workers accounting for 60 percent of the total.
“So that when we look at our work and understand what must be done, we understand that it’s not philanthropic, it’s not socialistic, it’s about having a competitive edge, it’s about economic development, it’s about opportunities, but not just about opportunities for women and minorities but opportunity for this nation to be a greater nation.”
Four subcommittees will be formed. They include: financial, to assess current practices for access to capital, identify obstacles to acquiring capital and develop recommendations and best practices to address those obstacles; transactional transparency to assess how investment opportunities are identified and information about those opportunities is disseminated; career advancement to investigate available career development programs and identify best practices; and new technologies to identify opportunities for women and minorities in areas of new and emerging technology.
In his opening remarks, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein pointed to current minority media ownership figures as evidence of the problem which must be addressed. “So you look at the numbers,” he said. “Minorities represent 29 percent of the United States population, but they own a mere 4 percent of the nation’s commercial radio stations and 1.9 percent of the nation’s TV stations. That is the lowest level of ownership ever since we’ve been taking these statistics. So clearly we have a problem, that’s why you’re here.”
The committee heard from Mitsy Wilson, vice president of diversity development for Fox Entertainment about the multi-year program she has developed and steps the company has taken to promote diversity. Charles Abernathy of the George Washington University School of Law also spoke about the status of affirmative action law.
The next full advisory committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 26, 2004. Work generated in subcommittees and from the full advisory committee as well as other resources will be available at www.fcc.gov/DiversityFac.
To view a streaming media version of the meeting, visit: http://www.fcc.gov/realaudio/publicforums.html. (Mitsy Wilson’s remarks begin at the 54:56 mark, and Charles Abernathy’s comments begin at the 1:29:15 mark.)