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NAB’s Smith: Reinstate Diversity Tax Certificate Program

(Image credit: NAB)

WASHINGTON—As part of the country’s renewed effort to increase inclusion, equity and diversity, NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith believes the broadcast industry can make strides by looking back at something from its past, the Diversity Tax Certificate Program.

In an op-ed on The Hill blog, Smith writes that local TV and radio broadcasters have done a great job covering the recent events—from the protests in the wake of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks' killings to COVID-19—but also believes these times have brought greater attention to “the woefully low percentage of communications outlets that are owned by people of color.”

While highlighting some of the efforts the NAB has made to try and increase those numbers, Smith acknowledges that the results has been minimal and believes that access to capital is the key moving forward.

This is where he believes that the Diversity Tax Certificate Program can come in. A FCC program instituted in 1978, the program gave tax incentives to companies that sold their majority interest in a broadcast station to minorities. From 1978-1995, minority ownership of broadcast stations grew 550%. Congress repealed the program in 1995, and minority ownership has taken a step back since, according to Smith.

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There have been efforts since then to reinstate the program—including Smith participating in one such instance when he was a senator—and as recently as the Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act introduced last year. NAB supports this legislation, as does the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, per Smith.

“A local media landscape that reflects our communities on the air, in the control booth and in the boardroom has long been a priority for America’s radio and television broadcasters,” said Smith. “Yet, we cannot accomplish this goal alone. Congressional passage of the Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act would serve as a critical step in creating a more diverse broadcasting industry.”

Smith’s full op-ed is available on The Hill