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Walden: Local broadcast media ownership should reflect diversity of U.S. communities


10.22.20

Washington, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR), a former radio station owner in rural Oregon, penned an op-ed for The Hill outlining the importance of promoting diversity and new voices into local broadcast media ownership and his bill, the Broadcast Diversity in Leadership Act, to create a broadcast incubator program to encourage continued diversity and growth of local broadcast media ownership.

You can read the full piece in The Hill here and catch a few highlights below.

The Hill

Local broadcast media ownership should reflect diversity of U.S. communities

By E&C GOP Leader Greg Walden (R-OR)

October 22, 2020

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, Americans can feel overwhelmed by the amount of information at their disposal, and filtering through seemingly unlimited content can be more burdensome than informative. For more than a century, local broadcasters have played an important role in delivering trustworthy, important and oftentimes emergency news that is tailored to the areas they serve. To ensure our local broadcasters can prosper in today’s dynamic media environment, we must create proactive policies that will incentivize future generations from all backgrounds to join the industry and continue to provide local and relevant information to the communities they serve.

As a former radio station owner in rural Oregon, I know well that our local broadcasters are often Americans’ primary source of local news, particularly in rural areas. They are especially vital during public health and safety crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing wildfires in the West. I also understand the importance of ensuring broadcast owners and their content reflect the communities they serve, and I commend the efforts of broadcasters to ensure diversity of their ownership, the viewpoints they present, and their employees.

While the obstacles faced by today’s local broadcasters have changed since my time in the business, government rules for the industry have not. In fact, ownership rules for broadcasters have stayed the same for more than two decades, putting local broadcasters at a disadvantage and preventing the growth of the industry at large. In an industry already struggling to compete with unregulated, digital competitors, opportunity lays further away for minorities who must overcome additional barriers including difficulty accessing capital or managing their first broadcast property. To ensure every American has an opportunity to be served content relevant for all identities, Congress must act to bring our media ownership laws into the 21st century, create policies to incentivize new entrants into the marketplace, and help lift voices of underrepresented individuals by promoting diversity where it matters most: ownership.

That is why, earlier this year, I introduced the Broadcast Diversity in Leadership Act. This bill aims to break down well-understood barriers and support new and diverse voices to join the local broadcast industry by creating a broadcast incubator program. Through the program, an established broadcaster and an aspiring broadcaster could form an incubation relationship, which would provide mentorship and access to capital, as well as establishing mutual goals to ensure success. I am proud to have worked with, and earned the support of, stakeholders that have been advocating for such a program for nearly three decades: the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters; the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council; and the National Association of Broadcasters. While there is certainly more work to be done, this program would be an important step in the right direction to promote a diverse array of voices in the broadcast media industry. This is an opportunity that should not be missed, and we cannot allow partisan politics and philosophical purity to stand in the way of real, commonsense progress that would enable more minorities to own broadcast stations that provide Americans access to the fair, relevant and diverse content they deserve.

Click HERE to read the full op-ed.

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