As President-elect Barack “Obama has made a point of appointing a diverse group of thinkers to his cabinet,” Courtney E. Martin’s American Prospect article (12/8/08) asks, “What about the diversity of opinion outside the White House?”:
Let’s start at the top. Kristal Brent Zook, author of I See Black People: The Rise and Fall of African American-Owned Television and Radio, reports, “Women of all races own just 5 percent of the 1,400 commercial broadcast television stations in America. People of color, who make up 33 percent of the national population (and will be more than 50 percent by 2050), own just 3.6 percent.” But what about radio, favored medium of so many sharp-tongued and strong-willed politicos? Brent Zook also reports those abysmal numbers: “Women and minorities own just 6 and 7.7 percent of all broadcast radio stations in the country respectively. This means that listeners in an average radio market have 16 white male-owned stations to choose from, but just one woman-owned and two minority owned alternatives.” Check out Out of the Picture and Off the Dial, two reports put out by Free Press, a D.C.-based media reform organization, for even more inexcusable statistics.
In case you “think it doesn’t matter,” Martin cites a Free Press finding that “having a minority- or female-owned station in a market is significantly correlated with a market airing both conservative and progressive programming.” In short: “More diversity means more vigorous debate means a more enlightened democracy.”
And independent media aren’t immune either; see the current issue of FAIR’s magazine Extra!: “Huffington Post Mutes Women’s Voices: New Media, Same Gender Imbalance” (11-12/08) by Jessica Wakeman