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Congressional leaders urge FCC to perform equity audit

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Associated Press
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AP

 

Congressional leaders and a media advocacy group are urging the Federal Communications Commission to examine how policy decisions and programs have disparately harmed Black Americans and other communities of color, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the acting FCC chair.

In the letter, first shared with The Associated Press, Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman of New York, Yvette Clarke of New York, and Brenda Lawrence of Michigan along with Media 2070 said the FCC should conduct an assessment to “address and redress” the harm the agency’s policies and programs have caused Black and brown communities and identify the “affirmative steps the agency commits to taking to break down barriers to just media and telecommunication practices.”

The FCC is an independent governmental agency that is responsible for regulating the nation’s communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. In total, 25 members of Congress signed onto the letter, including Congresswomen Karen Bass of California, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

A lack of diversity and representation has long been a concern for media advocates and experts who argue that racism permeates the nation’s media industry, partly because of historical exclusionary policies and regulations that have made it hard for Black Americans and others to control and shape news coverage and other forms of media in communities across the nation.

Media 2070, an initiative created by the Black caucus of the nonpartisan organization Free Press, has called for media reparations for the Black community and the FCC letter is part of its efforts. Earlier this month it delivered a petition to 3,000 newsrooms across the country, urging news outlets to “dismantle anti-Black racism in the media, trust Black journalists and care for Black communities.”

“Although many journalists and artists of color have used their talent to ensure critical stories about their communities are being told, our nation’s big media companies nevertheless continue to stereotypically depict people of color as being a threat or a burden to society,” the lawmakers wrote in their joint letter to Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Historic federal policies are a primary reason why structural inequities exist in our nation’s media and telecommunication systems today. FCC policies, license decisions and inaction have had the result of effectively excluding people of color from media ownership opportunities.”

The lawmakers noted the nation’s first radio and TV licenses were awarded by the Federal Radio Commission and then its successor, the FCC, during an era of Jim Crow segregation.

“The (Trump administration’s) efforts to consolidate the media marketplace limited ownership opportunities for people of color and women,” the letter stated.