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Category: Media

Almost No Discussion of Women/POC Media Ownership at FCC Hearing on Media Market Entry Barriers

| June 27, 2012

On Tuesday, Jamie Walker and I—both Women's Media Center interns—went to represent WMC at a hearing held at the Federal Communications Commission.  The hearing would present research from a coalition of scholars regarding the critical information needs of the American public and potential market entry barriers.  We arrived excited to hear more about the barriers that women and people of color specifically face in the media landscape. However, we were pretty disappointed as the hearing went on, as the panel chose to focus on other parts of their research.  As our 2012 Status of Women in the U.S. Media report shows, women and people of color are heavily underrepresented, both in ownership roles and in representations in film and television.  So, this is a rich topic that we expected would be heavily discussed.  

The scholars, from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, submitted a draft of their findings to a room that included the commissioner of the FCC, the independent review panel, and about eighty members of the public.  The three core questions of their research were the following:

  1. How do Americans meet critical information needs?
  2. How does the media ecosystem operate to address critical information needs?
  3. What barriers exist in providing content and services to address critical information needs?

All of these are great research questions but ultimately, the scholars chose to focus the bulk of their discussion on communities and what their basic informational needs are.  The panel of scholars acknowledged that the media landscape in the United States is changing rapidly, often referring to “traditional media” as television newscasts and print media and “new media” as mostly social media, like Twitter and Facebook.  They also pointed out the fact that U.S. demographics are changing dramatically as well; the 2010 Census reports that by 2040, the U.S. will have a “majority minority” population.  The panel brought up both of these topics throughout their discussion to highlight the ways in which they mutually affect one another and also, how they affect different communities and their ability to access critical information.  It was also during this discussion where they brought up diversity.  The scholars stated that they wanted to change what our idea of diversity is but, unfortunately, they didn’t really offer any concrete examples on how we could do that.  I think they missed a great opportunity here to continue their discussion on how the U.S. will soon be a “majority minority” nation and how that can allow us to identify more barriers to media ownership and representations and also change the way our current, and future, multicultural communities will receive critical information. 

Another thing I found interesting was that the researchers only focused on “traditional media” in their research.  The reason for this was because they stated that there was minimal research regarding “new media” and what was out there was mostly unreliable.  They also mentioned the well-known fact that women and people of color are heavily underrepresented in “traditional” media, both in ownership of media outlets and in media representations.  This is where I think they may have shortchanged their research; if you leave out “new media” outlets then you are thereby leaving out all the women and people of color who currently have ownership roles and also, all of the diverse content and representations that are being produced. 

What left me feeling positive was the knowledge that their research was still in draft form.  We at the WMC hope that they may be able to focus more on “new media” platforms because it is there that we can find more women and people of color in ownership positions and more diverse representations as well. 

For more information regarding ownership and representations of women in the media, check out our 2012 Status of Women in the U.S. Media report.

You can also read the Women's Media Center's statement that was released in advance of Tuesday's FCC hearing: "WMC Calls on FCC to Address Underrepresentation of Women, People of Color Media Owners."

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