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Excerpt: … the real discourse on diversity and inclusion does not center on who is in front of the camera, nor who is even directing its lens. The conversation should be focused on who owns the camera, and the content it’s used to create. #BlackMediaMatters and it is inside of ownership where you see the starkest disparity between blacks and whites across all major platforms, film, television, print and digital. To give context, according to a recent FCC filing with regard to full power television stations.
Whites owned 1,070 stations (77.2 percent) in 2013. Racial minorities in total owned 41 full power television stations (3.0 percent) as of 2013… Black or African Americans owned a mere 9 stations (0.6 percent) in 2013. “”The remaining stations (20 percent) , having no majority interest are likely predominately white owned as well.””
The Los Angeles Times also wrote on the issue with a story titled, “Black ownership of commercial TV stations nonexistent” reporting
“There are now zero black-owned and operated full-power TV stations in our country,” said Joseph Torres and Derek Turner of Free Press, which blamed the FCC’s relaxing of TV ownership regulations for the current situation. “This policy shift crowded out existing owners of color and ensured that it would be nearly impossible for new owners to access the public airwaves,”
While the nomination for an Oscar serves as a symbol of diversity, it does little to address the lasting effects that the disenfranchisement of blacks in media has had on content, employment and wealth for Black Americans. I recently spoke to African American media mogul Byron Allen on the issue. Allen now worth well over a billion dollars by some recent assessments, is championing the inclusion of black owned media companies, by bringing multiple large sum lawsuits against cable companies that he argues exclude majority owned African American companies from carriage deals. He settled one suit with AT&T late last year, and recently filed a $10 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against the FCC & Charter Communications. In speaking with him on the issue, he stated, “This is the fourth and final chapter of economic inclusion, Coretta Scott King was a friend and she stated African Americans have faced four major challenges, 1. Ending slavery 2. Ending Jim Crow, 3. Achieving civil rights, and 4. The fight to achieve economic inclusion.” Allen continued, “Diversity starts with ownership, it is time for black people to check the numbers. There are two Americas, blacks are part of the other America that has been excluded from access.” In the suit against Charter Communications and the FCC, Allen claims
Charter currently spends upwards of $4 billion annually to license video programming via channel carriage agreements. Of this, nothing is paid to 100% African American owned multi channel media companies. This discrepancy is the result of and evidences racial discrimination in contracting, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §1981.30. Section 1981 was enacted to eradicate racial discrimination in contracting. It was enacted after the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment eradicating slavery, to outlaw racial discrimination in contract.
The context of Black owned media cannot be understood without a grasp of American history that takes us deeper than diversity, back to a place of plain old black and white segregation.A look into a time before we had the category people of color, when our country simply had colored people that struggled within chattel enslavement, which was followed by the federal government pushing them into underfunded negro neighborhoods divided by redlines. Creating the kind of damage amongst blacks that even the UN has now acknowledged needs reparatory redress. But to truly understand the state of diversity in media, we don’t even need to go that far, we can simply go back to the mid nineties, when then president Bill Clinton signed the Telcom Act into law giving many black media companies a blow they could not overcome.
Originally published on Huffington Post Black Voices
Antonio Moore, an attorney based in Los Angeles, is one of the producers of the documentary Freeway: Crack in the System. He has contributed pieces to the Grio, Huffington Post, and Inequality.org on the topics of race, mass incarceration, and economics.