Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans combine to constitute a full third of the American population, yet recent studies show these minority groups only represent 4.6% of the ownership of all television stations and 7.24% of the ownership of all radio stations. In a similar vein, women comprise approximately 51% of the country’s population; nevertheless, females own only around 6% of commercial television stations and commercial broadcast radio stations in the United States. These statistics have led many, from human rights watchdogs to media policymakers, to note with some dismay the modest efforts made by the FCC to encourage meaningful change in this arena. While the FCC once boasted a relatively robust slate of incentives and systematic advantages for minority and single-station owners, these policies and programs are now largely defunct. Combined with ongoing reduction in the limitations upon station ownership and the corresponding rise in media consolidation, many onlookers believe that there is an inevitable trend toward the demise of viewpoint diversity.

In order to combat this problem, the FCC must accept that its market forces philosophy has proven inadequate to the job of protecting the public interest. While the attempt to allow consumer behavior to compel the creation of diverse programming was, and is, a commendable goal, the evidence suggesting its failure is simply too formidable to continue without substantial modification. Carefully constructed affirmative action programs may allow the FCC to pursue diversity in broadcast station ownership, as the Supreme Court has acknowledged that such diversity may represent a compelling government interest capable of surviving strict scrutiny analysis.

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