Washington -- A coalition of broadcast industry chiefs
announced Wednesday a new fund intended to boost ownership of television and radio
stations by minorities and women.
The Prism Fund, which provides funding for minority and
female entrepreneurs in the media and communications industry, was announced by program
co-chairs Mel Karmazin, the CBS Corp. CEO, and Lowry Mays, chairman of Clear Channel
Communications Inc. Both companies are involved in large pending mergers -- CBS with
Viacom Inc. and Clear Channel with AMFM Inc. -- and have discussed possible station sales
to minority owners as part of the regulatory approval process.
The fund, with $175 million so far from CBS, ABC parent The
Walt Disney Co., NBC, Cox Enterprises Inc., Fox Broadcasting, Radio One Inc., Tribune
Broadcasting and Viacom, will be managed by the private equity unit of Chase Manhattan
Corp. and will be independent from industry investors.
Officials said the goal was to establish a $400 million to
500 million fund, which can be "leveraged" into an investment vehicle with an
aggregate purchasing power of $1 billion.
"If over-the-air, free broadcasting is to grow in the
future, we must continue to reflect the community we serve," Karmazin said. "We
are underscoring our industry's commitment to diversity and the public interest, and,
hopefully, demonstrating how the private sector can sometimes act to address public issues
with better results than the public sector alone can achieve."
Federal Communications Chairman William Kennard said
minorities have been kept out of the communications industry because they lacked capital.
"At a time of rising prices for radio and TV stations,
the fund will help women and minorities ... participate more fully in one of our
nation's most important communications mediums," Kennard said.
The fund, a private-sector initiative that will select
minority radio and TV ownership projects with the intention of making a profit, will
consider investment opportunities in other communications sectors, including the Internet,
and wireless telecommunications.
"Never before has this industry seen commitments of
this magnitude to bring minorities and women into the ownership ranks," said NAB
President Edward Fritts. "We know of no other business in America that has
voluntarily dedicated this amount of money and effort towards diversifying
States News Service