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Door open for women in media policy

cbyerlys Icon Posted by Carolyn Byerly

July 12th, 2011

As a result of a court decision last week, women and people of color have an open door to advocate for media policy that will serve to expand their media ownership.

On July 7, the 3rd Circuit Court in Philadelphia reached its decision in a long-awaited media ownership appeal brought by attorneys for Media Access Project , which also filed and argued the original case in Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC in 2003. MAP and other organizations sought to block further deregulation of the media industries, including the ability of a newspaper company to also own broadcast stations in the same market (i.e., “cross-ownership”).

The group that participated specifically on women’s behalf was the Institute for Public Representation (IPR) at Georgetown University, which represents National Organization for Women. IPR’s director and lead attorney is Professor Angela Campbell, a feminist legal scholar who represents NOW, United Church of Christ and other groups that have advocated for women and people of color in communication policy for many years. Campbell has a team of law students and young attorneys working with her.

I note that my Howard University colleagues and I also collaborate with IPR in some activities (but we were not involved in this case).

In its July 7 ruling, the court sided with groups that had filed the case, rejecting the broadcast industry’s arguments that favored radio and radio/TV cross-ownership rules. Justices reinstated a 1975 ban on cross-ownership and directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider the impact of minority and female ownership and to come up with concrete rules and definitions that will promote such ownership in broadcast. The court agreed with IPR’s and other briefs arguing that the FCC failed to address proposals for increasing opportunities for minorities and women. It specifically found that that the “eligible entity” definition used by the commission was arbitrary and capricious because the FCC had not shown how it would function in increasing women and minority ownership.

The challenge now before women and people of color is to work for FCC policies that will specifically expand their access to telecommunications. At present, a few mega-corporations own 94% of all broadcast stations (TV and radio) and the vast majority of newspaper, cable and other media industries. That ownership bears the mark of discrimination with ownership by women and non-white peoples nearly absent.

For an especially good summary of the case, see Prometheus Radio Project’s website. For a complete copy of the ruling, contact me: cbyerly@earthlink.net

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