Martin, Copps offer conflicting views at Rainbow Push Coalition summit

In separate remarks to an economic summit sponsored by the Rainbow Push Coalition, FCC chairman Kevin Martin and commissioner Michael Copps last week painted remarkably different pictures of the Federal Communication Commission’s efforts to promote minority and female ownership of media.

Two obstacles — specifically the limited number of available broadcast channels and access to capital — impede the entry of minorities and other new entrants into media, media programming and other communications services, said Martin.

In the radio market, the commission is addressing these problems by authorizing low-power FM service, which creates “a class of radio stations designed to serve very localized communities or underrepresented groups within communities,” he said. The capital required to build such stations can be as little as $10,000 as opposed to the $50,000 to $250,000 required to construct a traditional FM station.

Martin also pointed to the adoption of an order to make leased access channels more affordable and expedite how complaints are handled as a step to make it easier for independent programmers to reach local audiences. The commission also has instituted recommendations from the Minority in Media and Telecom Council to promote broadcast ownership diversity.

However, Copps told his audience at the Rainbow Push 11th Annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit in Chicago that the commission’s vote to allow greater cross-ownership of broadcast outlets and daily newspapers promotes consolidation “which has done more than anything else to exclude minorities and women from the media marketplace.” Copps and commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, the other Democrat on the commission, voted against the measure.

The commission did not take the issue of minority and women media ownership seriously in its loosening of cross-ownership restrictions, Copps said. Doing so would have meant “postponing the vote of consolidation until we did justice to minority ownership; convening an independent panel with leadership from Rev. (Jesse) Jackson and others” to open up “real opportunities for minorities and women before we voted again to loosen any ownership rules,” said Copps.

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