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FCC Commissioner Starks Backs Tax Breaks to Improve Diversity in Station Ownership

FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON D.C.—Responding to FCC data showing lack of diversity in broadcast station ownership, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks has come out in favor of legislation that would reestablish the FCC’s Minority Tax Certificate Program, which offered tax breaks designed to encourage more diverse broadcast station ownership. 

“I have been talking about these ownership numbers for a long time, in particular about the need for this Commission to take action to address the lack of progress toward increasing the diversity among broadcast station owners to include more people of color and women,” Starks said in a statement following the release of ownership data for 2019 in the FCC’s “Fifth Broadcast Station Ownership Report.”

“Although the numbers show some slight improvements in majority ownership of full power commercial broadcast television stations by African Americans (up from 12 in 2017 to 18 stations in 2019), the percentage of ownership still rounds to an anemic 1%,” Starks noted. “Moreover, that number significantly worsened for Asian American owners (from 9 full power TV stations in 2017 to four stations in 2019).  Women had majority ownership in four more full power TV stations in 2019 (77) than in 2017, but that is still only 5.6% of 1,369 total stations, far below their representation in our overall population.  The numbers don’t lie – we must ensure that ownership at broadcast stations better reflects the rich diversity of the communities that they serve.”

This lack of diversity, he added, explains “why I strongly support initiatives like Congressman G.K. Butterfield’s renewed efforts to increase opportunities for diversity in broadcast ownership and viewpoints by reintroducing H.R. 4871, the Expanding Broadcast Opportunities Act of 2021, which would promote diversity of ownership in the broadcast industry by reestablishing the FCC’s Minority Tax Certificate Program.”

The Fifth Broadcast Station Ownership provided data on station ownership in 2019. The full report is available here

The legislation to reinstate the tax breaks has been supported by a number of former FCC Commissioners and trade groups like the NAB

(Image credit: FCC)
George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.