Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Yvette Clarke Join Free Press to Publicly Urge FCC to Examine Agency’s History of Racial Inequity (Washington, DC) – In a letter sent to Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, 25 members of Congress urged the agency to examine how its policy choices and actions have harmed Black people and other communities of color.
The letter, led by Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D–New York), Yvette Clarke (D–New York) and Brenda Lawrence (D–Michigan), cites President Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order on racial equity and encourages the FCC to address its role in creating and perpetuating systemic inequities that exclude people of color from media-ownership opportunities. According to the FCC’s own data, people of color own and control just 6 percent of the nation’s full-power TV stations, 7 percent of commercial FM radio stations and 12 percent of commercial AM radio stations — despite making up more than 40 percent of the U.S. population.
“Although many journalists and artists of color have used their talent to ensure critical stories about their communities are being told, our nation’s big media companies nevertheless continue to stereotypically depict people of color as being a threat or a burden to society,” the letter reads. “Historic federal policies are a primary reason why structural inequities exist in our nation’s media and telecommunication systems today. FCC policies, license decisions and inaction have had the result of effectively excluding people of color from media ownership opportunities.”
Free Press’ Media 2070 project has also launched a petition addressed to Chairwoman Rosenworcel that urges the FCC to examine how its history of racist policymaking has harmed Black people and other people of color. “Since a police officer murdered George Floyd last May, the ensuing racial reckoning that’s taken place in our country has forced public and private institutions to acknowledge their history of racism,” the petition reads. “Journalists of color have challenged several major media organizations to address the harm they’ve inflicted within their newsrooms and in communities of color at large. But media institutions alone are not responsible for the anti-Black racism that exists in our media system. Federal policies and the choices that lawmakers and regulators have made have also played a foundational role.”
Media 2070 co-creator and Free Press Senior Director of Strategy and Engagement Joseph Torres made the following statement:
“The first commercial-broadcasting licenses were issued for free in the 1920s and ’30s at the height of Jim Crow discrimination and excluded the Black community from ownership opportunities. Since that time, Black people and other communities of color have remained excluded from media ownership and left at the mercy of racist myths, misrepresentations and propaganda perpetuated by dominant media owners. The current media system is unjust and the FCC must begin the process of repair. That starts with a thorough investigation of the history of racism in the agency’s policymaking in keeping with President Biden’s call for greater racial equity across all federal agencies.”
Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Yvette Clarke Join Free Press to Publicly Urge FCC to Examine Agency’s History of Racial Inequity