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Former FCC Chairs Back Reinstatement of Tax Breaks for Diversity Ownership

FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nine former chairs of the FCC have come out in favor of legislation that would reinstate a tax certificate program to encourage investment in TV and radio broadcast station ownership for women and people of color.

Their statement offers support for H.R.4871, the Expanding Broadcast Opportunities Act of 2021 introduced by Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) and Steven Horsford (D-NV-4), and S.2456, the Broadcast VOICES Act introduced by Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). 

The bills would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to reestablish a Diversity Tax Certificate Program, which would provide a tax incentive to those who sold their majority interest in a radio or television station to underrepresented broadcasters.

The statement noted that “in each of our administrations, one of the most critical goals was advancing diversity and competition in broadcasting. Congress has expected the FCC to ensure that all Americans, regardless of race, have a genuine opportunity to become an owner in one of the most influential industries in the nation.”

“The greatest barrier to diversity is access to capital, which is why the Tax Certificate Policy was so important,” the statement continued. “It provided that a licensee who sold his or her station to a minority entrepreneur could defer payment of capital gains taxes upon reinvestment in comparable property. This relief benefitted buyers, sellers, and consumers.”

“The policy was highly successful: from 1978 to 1995, minority ownership in broadcast television and radio stations quintupled,” the nine former FCC chairs noted. “But in the years since the repeal of the policy, the frequency with which broadcast properties have been sold to minorities has fallen dramatically.”

To reverse that trend, the statement came out in support of legislation “introduced in the House by Representatives G.K. Butterfield and Steven Horsford, and in the Senate by Senators Gary Peters and Robert Menendez, to enable the FCC to reinstate and improve the policy. The legislation is supported by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB), the National Urban League (NUL), United States Black Chambers Incorporated, Asian American Advancing Justice – AAJC, League of United Latin American Citizens, and Hispanic Federation. We are proud to lend our bipartisan voices in support.”

The nine former chairs signing the statement were: 

Newton N. Minow (1961-1963)

Richard E. Wiley (1974-1977)

Reed E. Hundt (1993-1997)

William E. Kennard (1997-2001)

Michael K. Powell (2001-2005)

Michael J. Copps (2009)

Julius Genachowski (2009-2013)

Mignon Clyburn (2013)

Tom Wheeler (2013-2017)

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.