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June 23, 1998

Press Statement of Commissioner Gloria Tristani
Minority Opportunities in the Media

I want to thank Jimmy Smits and the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts for their initiative in promoting minority opportunities in the media. As a Commissioner and as a Latina, I believe we need to do whatever we can to find creative solutions to this difficult problem.

We've all seen the dismal numbers. In 1996, minorities owned only 3.1% of the broadcast properties in the U.S. By 1997, that number dropped another 10% -- to 2.8%.

Among Hispanics, the figures are even more disturbing -- only one-half of one percent of the full power TV stations and about one percent of radio stations are Hispanic-owned.

In employment, the overall number of minorities is 20.2%. But those employees are concentrated in areas like laborers and clerical workers. We need to increase the numbers of minorities in management positions, where editorial decisions are made.

These problems will not be solved easily. We need to look at access to capital. We need to look at education and training. We need to look at advertising. And perhaps most difficult of all, we need to talk candidly about race.

Many of you have probably seen the recent press reports on a memo coming out of a national advertising sales firm. For those of you who missed it, the memo basically advised against buying too many ads on black and ethnic radio stations because when it comes to delivering "prospects, not suspects," urban formats just can't compete. It also said too many ads on ethnic stations would risk losing "the more important 'white' segment of the market." And with respect to a particular Hispanic station, the memo said that "The Hispanic population is extremely poor qualitatively."

We might be able to dismiss a single memo as the views of just one person, but, as the Washington Post put it only a few days ago, the memo "provides a window to a persistent reality." Nationwide, according to the Post, urban radio stations are among the most listened to, especially in big cities like New York, Washington and Philadelphia. But those ratings don't translate into ad revenues -- black owned stations make about 80% of the revenues of non-black stations with the same ratings.
We need to find out what is going on in the advertising world and how attitudes like these affect minority ownership.

Attitudes can be difficult to change, and the media only makes it more difficult when it engages in harmful stereotyping of minorities. Children Now recently released a study of children's perceptions of race on TV. The study found (not surprisingly) that negative stereotypes of minorities on TV remains widespread. White actors are more often seen as having money, being well-educated and being leaders, while characters of color are often criminals, lazy and "act goofy."

These stereotypes have an impact, especially on children, who are still trying to figure out how they fit into the larger society. According to the study, "when asked about how they see their race in the news, young Latino children said 'Gangs. Accidents. Drug dealers. Churches. When they go to jail. Murders.'"

So we must continue to speak out on these issues and fight harmful stereotypes. Remember -- our children are watching.

I look forward to our dialogue on these issues, and to doing whatever I can to help promote minority opportunities in the media.

- FCC -