Make us your home page
Instagram

PolitiFact: Obama fails to deliver on promise to boost diversity in media ownership

In Barack Obama's days as a U.S. senator from Illinois, he was a strong advocate of diverse media ownership, a passion that spilled over to his 2008 presidential campaign.

During his run for the White House, Obama promised voters he would "encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum."

PolitiFact has compiled more than 500 promises Obama made during the 2008 campaign and is tracking their progress on our Obameter.

How has his promise to diversify media ownership fared?

Not well.

The White House has not taken public action in the direction of more diversity in the media. In fact, news reports in the past month suggest the Federal Communications Commission plans to propose looser media regulations, allowing for greater consolidation in 20 of the country's largest metropolitan areas — the opposite of what Obama promised.

One high-profile rule change would allow cross-ownership of a newspaper and either a broadcast television station or a radio station. The current rule dates to 1975.

The Seattle Times, a longtime opponent of similar proposals, decried the potential rule change in a November editorial because "putting local journalism into a few hands and limiting the access to local media are bad for democracy. Our political system thrives on independent news gathering, viewpoints and opportunities for women and minorities."

The full implications of the rule change are not yet evident. It might reduce the number of media owners but help preserve journalism jobs for minorities.

The leading national organization that advocates for minority-owned media actually supports lifting the ban on cross-ownership.

"I do not know of a single transaction that minorities wanted to do but did not happen because of cross-ownership," said David Honig, president of Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.

Honig's rationale for supporting the measure is twofold:

1) It does not seem to impede minority media ownership, and;

2) Some consolidation in the nation's biggest cities might be necessary to preserve local journalism by trained professionals, which would serve the public interest.

The Federal Communications Commission's record under the Obama administration has been lackluster in other ways, however, according to Honig. His organization has suggested more than 40 rule changes that would benefit minority media ownership, none of which have been adopted by the commission in the past four years.

For example, Congress repealed a certificate program in 1995 that allowed the seller of a broadcast station to defer capital gains taxes on the sale if the buyer was a minority or women-owned company. A 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office noted that between 1978 and 1995, 328 tax certificates resulted in 285 radio station sales and 43 television station sales to minority and women-owned companies.

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council wants the tax certificate program to be reinstated and expanded.

"It's very frustrating. That's not what we would have expected from this administration," Honig said.

We also spoke to Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, an organization that advocates against media mergers. Aaron said virtually nothing has changed in terms of strengthening or weakening rules against media concentration under the Obama administration.

One exception would be the merger of Comcast, the country's largest cable operator, and NBC Universal, a broadcasting company, which Aaron called "the biggest merger ever."

Both Honig and Aaron were largely pessimistic that any proposed rule changes would result in greater diversity of media ownership.

In terms of racial, ethnic or gender diversity, the federal commission released a report this year showing white men still represent the majority of media ownership in broadcast stations. For example, women held the majority voting interests in 9.2 percent of broadcast stations in 2011. Likewise, the report found that racial minorities held the majority voting interests in 5.5 percent.

Given that diversity of media ownership did not get a boost by federal policy and advocates noted no progress on Obama's campaign pledge, we rate this a Promise Broken.

Encourage diversity

in media ownership

"Will encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum."

About the Obameter

PolitiFact has compiled more than 500 promises that Barack Obama made during the 2008 campaign and is tracking their progress on our Obameter.

We rate their status as Not Yet Rated, In the Works or Stalled. Once we find action is completed, we rate them Promise Kept, Compromise or Promise Broken.

The Obameter Scorecard

RatingTotalPercent
Promise Kept20039
Compromise 94 19
Promise

Broken
102 20
Stalled 27 5
In the Works 85 17

PolitiFact: Obama fails to deliver on promise to boost diversity in media ownership 11/24/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 22, 2012 6:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Clearwater attorney accused of condo foreclosure trickery fights back

    Real Estate

    The Clearwater lawyer accused of tricking a bidder into paying $458,100 for a gulf-front condo now plans to contest a judge's order tossing out the sale.

    John Houde, left, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground, in August during a hearing Sixth Judicial Circuit court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse. The judge agreed with Houde's allegation that he was duped by Skelton in thinking he bought a Redington Beach condo for $458,100 out of a foreclosure auction. Now Skelton is fighting back. 
[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  2. How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA

    Agriculture

    Tony DiMare, a third-generation Florida tomato grower, has spent two decades contending with cheap Mexican imports, watching his neighbors abandon crops in their fields and sell off their farms when they couldn't match the price of incoming produce.

    Workers fill a trailer with tomatoes as they harvest them in the fields of DiMare Farms in Florida City. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images(2013)]
  3. Pinellas deputies go door-to-door at dawn to arrest unlicensed contractors

    Crime

    Pinellas deputies began pounding on doors at 5 a.m. Tuesday, part of a widespread roundup of contractors accused of working without licences and workers compensation.

    Pinellas Sheriff deputies J. Short, left, and T. Festa, right, arrest suspect Randy Ronchi, center, in Largo early Tuesday, as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  4. HQ2 watch: As deadline looms for Amazon headquarters pitch, one metro bows out

    Business

    If there's one national business saga to keep up on these days, it's the frenzy by metropolitan areas — including Tampa Bay — to make their best pitches to Amazon in the hope of being chosen as the new location for the giant online retailer's second massive headquarters. HQ2, as it is called, would create …

    Cities across the country are trying to land Amazon's second headquarters, known as HQ2. In Birmingham, Ala., giant Amazon boxes were constructed and placed around the city as part of its "Bring A to B" campaign. [Ali Clark/Bring A to B Campaign]
  5. Shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations rebound from stronger earnings report

    Corporate

    TAMPA — After a sharp drop in its stock price in August and September, Health Insurance Innovations on Monday announced strong revenue and net income gains in preliminary numbers for its third quarter of the year. The company also announced a $50 million stock buyback over the next two years meant to bolster its …

    After losing more than half its market value between August and September, shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations are rebounding."The new share repurchase program underscores our confidence in our business strategy, financial performance, and the long-term prospects of our company while also allowing us the financial flexibility to continue to invest in our business," company CEO Gavin Southwell announced Monday. [Courtesy of LinkedIn]