FCC Diversity Advisory Committee


The FCC Diversity Advisory Committee should begin its work by first determining how many radio station licenses have been issued to women and minorities and what happened to those stations. Radio station owners, in most cases are small business interests. Until 20 years ago that was especially true. As any small business owner can tell you there are many reasons why a business fails but chief among them is the lack of sufficient money to ride out the inevitable hurdles one runs up against in business. If GM can go bankrupt a small market radio station owner in Cozad, Nebraska is obviously in peril. Many women and minorities who did get station licenses saw their business fail. Many more in small and larger markets cashed in for profit during the consolidation boom.

Those of us who have enjoyed some success over the years spent many years in preparation before being able to claim an ownership stake in a radio station. In my case of life from paycheck to paycheck it was 15 long years between the time I began a broadcasting career and my initial sweat equity share of ownership in a very small market. Those years entailed taking on the various jobs required to operate a station. Work as an announcer, copywriter, newsman, traffic, bookkeeping, production, sales and as much as I could learn about engineering and station signals. These are all jobs required in operating a station and as any small market owner can tell you money to hire people to do these jobs is scarce. It pays to be a Jack of all Trades in small market ownership. Working in the business, paying your dues and garnering the expertise to operate a radio station for a profit is the first order of business, not stepping into ownership.

Over the years I have been asked many times by my communications attorneys, first Mark Fowler and then Gregg Skall and others at his firm to consult pro bono with both women and minorities who were seeking a station license or trying to succeed with the license they had acquired and I have tried to give back to the industry by doing so. In each case I found the individual eager but sadly lacking in experience. It is not enough to simply get a radio station license in your name. Like a dog chasing a car there comes a time when it is caught and you have to know how to deal with a hot muffler and competing drivers (competitors) who are content to run you over. Poor people, regardless of whether or not they are women or minorities wind up initially with the inferior signals because they don’t have the money to buy the best facilities. Navigating a 3000 watt FM in a field of 100,000 watt stations is a daunting task and without years of experience to draw upon, most fail.

There is no magic shortcut to station ownership and it is not just women and minorities who have found that to be true. There are many male caucasians who have never owned a radio station and will never be able to afford one. Work in the field, learn what it takes to own and manage a radio station. Learn the pitfalls. As the old Baptist preacher said, “The first thing to mastering walking on the water is to know where the stumps are.” This committee is looking in all the wrong places.

Tom Joyner
Joyner Radio, Inc.

[email protected]
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