Diversity Groups PUSH FCC On Civil Rights

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The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, joined by Rainbow PUSH, NAACP, and others are telling the Federal Communications Commission that the status of civil rights issues at the commission is even worse now than last year, when most of the same groups wrote the agency to complain about the state of minority ownership.

They want a meeting with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to air their grievances.

A commission spokesman strongly disagreed with the letter's characterization of the FCC on the issue.

In a letter dated Feb. 22, the groups said that no progress had been made on minority entrepreneurship and equal
employment issues. They pointed to a number of things, including the FCC's 2011 budget, which they said cuts funding to diversity offices, funds new diversity studies at only half the level needed, and limits that research to broadcasting, rather than including telecom -- particularly telecom auctions -- where those groups have been pushing for help in bidding against large incumbents.

"We respectfully request an opportunity to meet with you to discuss the issues raised in this letter," they wrote. "With less than two years remaining in the President's term, there's not a lot of time left to reverse the tailspin in which minority businesses, entrepreneurs, employees and executives in media and telecom find themselves."

"This FCC has made great strides in this area," said commission spokesman Robert Kenny, "from its work with Comcast and NBCU and fixing key provisions in the Sirius-XM merger to working with Congress to resolve a significant dispute over Arbitron's Portable People Meter service."

The diversity groups have been pushing for the diversity studies for a decade, but said the narrow focus on broadcasting "appears to be writing off forever the possibility of ensuring that minorities and women will be significant licensees of wireless spectrum."

They also pointed out that two FCC offices with trimmed budgets were the Office of Workplace Diversity and the Office of Communications Business Opportunities, which it said were the only offices with "substantive responsibilities" to whose funding was cut.

They said the commission also has not submitted a diversity report to Congress 14 months after it was due; has acted on only one of 72 minority ownership proposals then before the agency; took no EEO actions for a year and a half; has designated no compliance officer for its 2007 rule against discrimination in advertising; and has taken no action on a petition to make emergency broadcasts multilingual.

"We are committed to upholding and fostering the civil rights of every American and remain focused on truly making a difference in people's lives," said Kenny, "to spur opportunities for people through policy initiatives that harness technology and adapt to a changing communications landscape in America."

He said there is more action coming next month: "The commission's March meeting will build on these efforts as address real life issues and concerns facing Native Americans and finding new ways to bring 21st Century technologies to their communities. We will continue to push forward with strong, sensible ideas that will actually make a difference."

FCC and diversity have been in the news lately after House Republicans amended the stop-gap continuing resolution budget bill to defund the FCC's chief diversity officer, Mark Lloyd. He ran afoul of Republican legislators when he was first appointed back in 2009 over past writings critical of conservative talk radio.

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