FCC Slammed on Media-Ownership Diversity

African-American coalition group says it will sue to ensure the commission enforce diverse ownership

Declaring that the Federal Communications Commission hasn’t done enough to ensure diversity of media ownership, the National Coalition of African American Owned Media says it is taking its concern to the courts.

A suit is expected to be filed within several weeks, the group’s president-CEO Stanley E. Washington told TheWrap. He said that former FCC chairman Kevin Martin is advising the group.

Washington said the suit comes in the wake of the Comcast’s $30 billion deal for NBC Universal, but he insisted the FCC has regularly failed act properly to foster the development and growth of minority media.

“The FCC has a mandated purpose on diverse ownership. It’s done a miserable job [enforcing it],” he said.

He said that the lawsuit will suggest that the FCC should have stepped to review the availability of minority media before examining combinations like Comcast and NBCU.

“We will assert that Comcast should never have been allowed to get as large as they are today,” he said. “It represents the poster child” of what shouldn’t have happened.

In a statement that announced the suit, the group said the commission “has blatantly failed to recognize the vital role of the wholly-owned African American media participation” and warned that permitting a single company to programming and distribution access would reduce competition and the number of independent voices on TV.

Critics of the FCC suggest that under Republican administrations, the commission was too willing to allow combinations of stations and ease media ownership limits, making it more difficult for minority owned companies to buy stations or compete when they could buy them.

Some of those critics pointed to some of the changes that now-adviser Martin made to ease media ownership rules as one example. Among the critics were Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and then Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

They accused Martin of moving too swiftly to make changes without fully understanding the implications on minority media.