SEPTEMBER 11, 1998
(As Prepared for Delivery)
Thank you Sandra for that kind introduction.
Every time a man in a position of responsibility has the opportunity to speak to a group of women, he trots out a list of women in his life. There are first, the women who have influenced his life -- his mother and third grade teacher; second, the women who make a difference in his life today -- his wife, his daughters; and third, the women he works with or has appointed to important jobs.
This is an organization of prominent women in communications. So far be it from me to take the podium today without acknowledging at least this third group of women in my life.
You know many of them. So I am proud to acknowledge today the women who have top leadership roles at the Federal Communications Commission. In addition to the impressive work done by my colleagues on the FCC, Commissioners Susan Ness and Gloria Tristani, who you all know, I am proud that during my tenure as Chairman, I have appointed Bureau Chiefs Deborah Lathen, Regina Keeney and Kathy Brown; and the chiefs of our public affairs and legislative offices, Liz Rose and Sheryl Wilkerson.
But it will be a great day when women are so commonplace in positions of power and responsibility that we don't feel like we have to show up with this list when we address women's groups, when this need not even be an issue for discussion to this group by the Chairman of the FCC.
That's what I want to talk to you about today. How do we get to that day? Are we making progress to getting there? What can we in government do to make this vision a reality?
A burst of news stories last month, including a cover story in Broadcasting & Cable magazine, focused on women executives in the cable and broadcast industries. Taken together, these stories highlight how far we have come yet how far we have to go.
As you all know, promoting opportunities for those underrepresented in the communications industry is a high priority for me. Whether increasing the levels of women-owned television and radio stations, or increasing employment opportunities for women at all levels of the broadcast and cable industries, I believe that this challenge is central to the public interest.
But as you know, the challenge for government to adopt remedies is challenging in these times.
Courts have struck down our licensing measures to assist women in getting broadcast licenses.
Consolidation in the broadcast industry has limited the ownership opportunities for new entrants.
The D.C. Circuit's recent decision in the Lutheran Church case put in jeopardy our EEO policies, which require broadcasters to make efforts to recruit qualified minorities and women for job openings.
These obstacles make it more difficult to achieve our important goal of diversity in radio and television.
One thing is clear: we must not give up. We must not give up on our efforts to increase the presence of women at all levels of the industry, because, where there is a will, there is a way.
A few years ago, the Washington Post reported what it called the "feminization of prime time." Not only was there a proliferation of programs in which women were the central focus -- Murphy Brown, Designing Women, Grace Under Fire, Caroline in the City and Cybill -- but more traditional programs not explicitly about women had female leads.
Last year brought new women on television: Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch presented what is certainly a new type of woman on prime time. Ally McBeal, whatever you think of her character, was the new ratings hit of the year with both men and women. Lifetime Television brings programs to women 24 hours a day. These shows prove that women do have a presence on primetime TV.
The success of programming about and for women has proven that developing programming with female leads and with strong, diverse female characters is good business. It's good business because more women watch primetime TV than men -- 6.5 million more, according to Nielson.
But while programming for and about women may be good for business, it can also be good for women. Today our workforce is made up of men and women in almost equal parts. This is a big change from what the workforce looked like when many of us in this room were growing up.
There may be more programming marketed to women today, but how much of it really represents women in the ways they are represented in our society? We know, for example, that women suffer greater rates of poverty than men in this country. But think about the voices of the women we hear -- with few exceptions, they tend to be white, upper class, and educated. How great it would be if we saw more portrayals of aging women, women of color, and women from diverse class backgrounds.
Think about how groundbreaking Roseanne was in its portrayal of class diversity. If we're really going to have equality in our society, why shouldn't our vision include programming that improves understanding of women as people in our society.
We have the opportunity. And diversifying portrayals of women -- creating roles which better reflect the diversity of the population -- is not unrelated to the increasing presence of women in the industry.
As the Louisville Courier-Journal reported, "The TV shows where women get a better shake tend to be the ones produced by women."
And nowhere do these new roles for women have more effect than in programming for girls.
While Gerry Laybourne was president of Nickelodeon she gave a speech in which she laid out Nickelodeon's Guidelines for Producing Television with Strong Role Models for girls. Gerry's guidelines say that television should create girl characters who are "multi-dimensional; make mistakes; speak and listen as often as boys; have fun; are not beautiful; interact with boys and girls; make choices and show balanced characters; aren't always nice and kind; are accepted for a number of reasons; aren't defined by their romantic entanglements; do sports; and listen to girls."
This makes such eminently good sense. But as a principle -- like many principles of equality in our society -- it takes courage and consistent action to make it a reality in entertainment today.
But let's not forget, that these realistic portrayals of women make a difference. They certainly make a difference with children.
Here are some interesting facts. According to a recent study by Children Now, 57% of girls and 61% of boys think that television shows boys and girls as equals. And another 67% of girls and 68% of boys think television shows the importance of women having a career or a job. So boys and girls are roughly equal on this score.
But not all of the numbers are this good. The same study indicates that 44% of girls and 36% of boys say that there are too few good role models for girls on television. And 62% of girls and 58% of boys reported that the female characters on television usually rely on someone else to solve their problems, while male characters tend to solve their own problems.
Another statistic that struck me from that Children Now study was that roughly half of all the kids surveyed believed that the kids they see on television are like them and their friends. But that means that half of the kids don't see themselves on TV. Think about how important it is for kids -- both girls and boys -- to see characters who look like them. For kids to see characters not only of their gender or race, but with glasses, in wheelchairs, with hearing aids or braces on their legs.
We should not underestimate the impact of these images on children -- both on girls and boys.
Another idea that seems so obvious is that we ought to encourage diversity of ownership of the airwaves.
Diverse ownership of broadcast stations not only enriches what we see and hear, it is also consistent with the Communications Act. The Act requires the FCC to create opportunities for women to have licensing opportunities to use the public's airwaves.
AWRT has been a consistent voice at the Commission to tear down the barriers to opportunities for women to own television and radio stations.
Your own data -- citing a 1987 Census study -- revealed that at that time women owned and controlled only 1.9% of all television stations and only 3% of radio stations.
I wish I could report that those numbers have radically increased. Honestly, I wish I could report something about those numbers, period. But we just don't have current reliable information on female ownership of broadcast stations. The lack of information is at least something that we can change. I plan to propose to my colleagues that the Commission collect information on ownership by women in broadcasting, so that we can stop guessing about these numbers.
In the same years that the numbers of women with the experience and access to financing necessary to own and operate broadcast stations has increased, decisions by the courts and consolidation in the industry have raised new barriers to broadcast ownership by women.
We are working to minimize these barriers.
We know that there is a relationship between the diversity of broadcast station owners and the programming presented on those stations.
And we know that the government has a strong interest in this diversity. We know this because we live in the real world.
We know that the background of a journalist reporting a story matters. Our experience and identity influence how we view the world, and how we view the world inescapably influences what we convey on television and radio.
Women's ownership of broadcast stations can't help but increase the variety of viewpoints presented over the nation's airwaves. Not only news and public affairs programming, but entertainment and children's programming is affected by the ownership of the station. You and I know that. But in light of court decisions, it is up to the Commission to prove the link.
To this end, we are studying the relationship between the gender diversity of licensees and the nature of programming presented to viewers.
We are also launching a variety of other studies designed to establish a constitutionally sound record to reinstate specifically designed initiatives to foster female and minority ownership.
I have spoken to key members of Congress about our efforts in this area, and am pleased to report that there is support for the Commission's work in this area. Just this week, I received a letter from Senator Stevens and Senator Inouye urging the FCC to find ways to increase opportunities for women and minorities in communications.
In addition, with the transition from allocation by comparative hearings to competitive bidding, we must rethink the means of providing women increased access to broadcast station ownership.
We know, as you all do, that the competitive bidding process works against those with historically limited access to capital markets. This is why last month we established a "new entrant" bidding credit for applicants with no, or very few, media interests.
In order to address further the barriers to women's ownership presented by the competitive bidding process, we are studying whether and to what extent women's historically limited access to capital markets puts them at a disadvantage in the competitive bidding process.
We're also working to maintain opportunity in employment.
According to a report in Broadcasting & Cable last month, the story on women in top positions in these industries is half good and half bad.
The statistics for women at the top of these industries are sobering. There are no women heading any of the 25 largest media groups, nor the top 25 TV groups.
But the good news is that there is a growing percentage of women on the bench ready to move into the top positions.
I am convinced that the strength of the women's bench in the broadcast industries results in part from 30 years of enforcement of the FCC's EEO rules. These rules have promoted inclusion in broadcast station employment by requiring broadcasters to cast their recruiting net widely.
In 1971, three years after the FCC's EEO rules began, women constituted only 23.3% of full-time broadcast employees, Last year, women constituted 40.8% of broadcast employees. We know the rules work. I have seen them work. I am a product of those rules. And I know that we still need them.
These rules have led to more women in front of and behind the television camera, and inside and outside the radio booth.
But these rules are under legal assault. Recently, the D.C. Circuit ruled in the Lutheran Church case that the FCC's rules to promote equal employment opportunity are unconstitutional.
This decision, if not reversed, could invalidate the FCC's rules that require broadcasters to recruit qualified minority and women job applicants.
We're appealing the decision.
I don't know whether the court will agree to rehear the case. But I do know this: where there is a will there is a way. And if the court refuses to rehear the case, we will find another way to advance opportunity for all segments of our society to be guaranteed equal employment opportunity.
In April, I issued a challenge to the broadcast industry to create opportunities for minorities and women. And many companies have answered that challenge.
As I announced last month, many leading media companies have assured me that they will abide by EEO principles whether required by law to do so or not. I thank these companies that know that reaching out and finding talented men and women of all colors to run their companies is good business and the right thing to do. It's right for them. And it's right for the country.
I urge all of you to help in this quest.
Many of you are in positions to make a real difference. You are in these companies; you are part of these institutions. You can make sure that your companies embrace these principles and continue to abide by them into the future.
I suspect that a lot of you in this room today are also pioneers -- the first female president of a division, first female vice president, first female to head a Washington office. As Justice O'Connor so aptly put it, while it's important to be the first, it's also important not to be the last.
We all know the importance of role models and of mentoring in paving the way for others in the industry. We must expand upon these methods that have traditionally been successful in increasing opportunities.
And as the media pie expands there will be more opportunities for everyone in the changing media industries.
Throughout the history of communications, those who have succeeded have had a vision of the future and have embraced technological change. The new media is a combination of the media you already work in -- print, audio, and video.
And there will be more opportunities in these new industries for those who jump on board.
Think about the girls growing up in the sixties or seventies who wanted to be on-air anchors or reporters. The opportunities available to them were limited to the broadcast networks and their local television stations. But today, with the proliferation of cable news channels, there are many times more opportunities in television news.
Some women have already jumped to the new media. In the last few months Tina Brown and Gerry Laybourne have announced that they will be taking their expertise to new media industries. I wish them well, and admire their vision and initiative. And I look forward to following their accomplishments and those of the people they bring along with them into these new ventures.
You are in positions where you can make a real difference. You can help create opportunity for others in the media and in the new media; you can create programming that really advances the role of women in a constructive way, and you can frame the debate.
But we must do more than frame the debate. Each of us, in our work everyday, must recognize that when women and minorities reach positions of authority, we are judged not only by the standard of excellence in our profession. We are also judged -- we should be judged -- by the work that we do to pave the way of opportunity for others. What we do here -- I at the FCC and you in the industry -- will shape the world in which our children live and the opportunities that will be available to them.
I thank you for the opportunity to be here today, and even more important, for the work that you have done and I know will continue to do to support our efforts at the FCC to promote opportunity and diversity.