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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Radio Ownership: The Minority Gap?

A new report was released this week indicating that women and minorities 'are largely absent from radio station ownership, thanks to a surge in media consolidation'.

Gloria Steinem led a conference call discussion about the study which is designed to urge the Federal Communications Commission to refrain from further relaxing restrictions on ownership of broadcast stations by large companies.

I'm not a big fan of consolidation - not after what the 1996 move has done to the industry. Consolidation is just one facet of a perfect storm of events that has led the radio industry to its current doldrums.

Based on an analysis Bridge Ratings conducted late last year as part of the 10th anniversary of the 1996 consolidation ruling in Congress, the act of consolidating properties by large companies has not been responsible for the lack of women and minority ownership. It's just not that easy to get funded! The funding process for any individual is grueling and - especially in the current industry revenue growth environment - delivering acceptable performance targets is a difficult task for any interested owner regardless of race or gender.

I don't think women and minorities have necessarily been systematically cut off from media ownership. The public-interest group study released this week thinks they have.

Women own 6% of all full-power commercial radio stations nationwide and racial or ethnic minorities own 7.7%.

And while Ms. Steinem and others - including the two Democratic members of the FCC - would like to see a closer parity in ownership to women and minority population percentages - it just won't happen anytime soon.

Yes, I agree that there should be changes in ownership rules in order to give more individuals the opportunity to own and operate radio stations. Hold ownership rules where they are currently or reduce the number of stations that can be owned, but the women and minority percentages won't change significantly because of it.

When the financing environment changes significantly or special preferences are offered by the financial funding community to women and minorities who prove they are able to operate, only then will this imbalance improve.

Consolidation has little to do with it.

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