The FCC’s lone Democratic Commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, has found a friend in Congress in support of her quest to have the minority tax certificate returned for radio and TV broadcasters.
The Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act, introduced Tuesday (4/4) by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina), would help to increase diversity of ownership in the broadcasting industry by strengthening data and reporting requirements at the FCC, re-establishing a tax certificate program in place from 1978 to 1995, and creating a pilot incubator program at the FCC to assist new minority- or women-owned broadcast stations.
“In today’s omnipresent media environment, the need to increase diverse voices that can contribute to the dialogue has never been more important,” said Butterfield. “My bill that bolsters the FCC’s reporting requirements, revives a tax certificate program, and empowers the FCC to assist historically disadvantaged groups is an important step forward in encouraging new entrants into the broadcast industry.”
The legislation received a thumbs up from NAB EVP/Communications Dennis Wharton, who thanked Rep. Butterfield for introducing legislation that would increase diversity in broadcast station ownership. “Broadcasters have long supported market-based solutions that expand the diversity of voices at radio and television stations, and NAB has worked with partners from across industries to help women and minorities achieve their dreams of station ownership,” Wharton said. “We will continue our work with regulators, lawmakers and stakeholders on addressing this important issue and support swift passage of this legislation.”
Data from 2014 shows that, of the over 1,700 commercial broadcast television stations in the United States, less than 6% are owned by women, and less than 3% are minority-owned, the bill states.
With respect to radio stations, women owned approximately 7% of FM broadcast radio stations, and minorities owned less than 3% of such stations. Women and minority ownership is 5 to 10 times higher in other industries than in the broadcasting industry, the legislation also notes.
In the years a minority tax certificate existed, the Commission issued 287 certificates for radio stations and 40 certificates for television stations.
In a statement, Clyburn said Butterfield “has hit the nail on the head when it comes to proposing solutions for a more inclusive media landscape,” heartily supporting and applauding his introduction of the Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act (H.R. 1883).
“Reinstating a tax certificate program and establishing a pilot incubator program are two of the proposals our office outlined in the recently released #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan. Transforming the dismal reality of the present ownership landscape, into a future that offers abundant opportunities for women and minorities will not be an easy task. Congressman Butterfield’s legislation is an important step towards greater broadcast ownership diversity and I look forward to working with him and all interested Members of Congress in pursuit of this shared goal.”
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