Question for the FCC: Where are the Women?

Instead of looking for ways to help three or four giant, male-owned, male-run companies get even larger, the FCC should be spending its time assisting women and minorities in participating in our publicly owned airwaves.

Yesterday, the report that FCC Chair Kevin J. Martin was rushing into a vote on media consolidation, loosening the rules on cross-ownership of television stations and newspapers, was alarming and wholly unacceptable. We cannot allow control of the media, especially our publicly owned airwaves, to be held by a handful of men.

This is not an abstract question about ownership rights or corporate conglomerates. This is about the image of the world we see every day as reflected in the mirror of the media. Today, that picture is overwhelmingly selected and created by men. Women, who comprise nearly 52 percent of the population, own less than 3 percent of radio and television stations. Not coincidentally, women hold the same proportion percent of clout positions in the media. Fully 97 percent of the decision makers in the newsroom, the publishing house and the studio lot are men.

As a result, the image that we see of the world as reflected by the media is dangerously incomplete. Far too often, women's stories and women's experiences go unreported or underreported. And as Women's Media Center founder and activist Jane Fonda said, when the media does not reflect the vibrant diversity of the people on this planet, both the quality of journalism and the quality of our democracy suffer.

Certainly media consolidation plays a part in this. Since deregulation in 1996, as male-owned and -run companies have bonded with other male-owned and -run companies, women chase the ever-elusive prize: no matter how high a woman rises, it seems ever more levels of power are erected above her. As cross-ownership becomes the norm, and entertainment companies are responsible for newsrooms, the trickle down effect of exclusion asserts itself in those newsrooms, the most important connection and responsibility to the public.

On April 30, 2007, I testified [PDF] at one of several FCC hearings held on the topic of media ownership. At that hearing, I found that the idea that women have an important and distinct stake in this discussion seemed to come as a surprise to FCC representatives. That is probably why almost all key speakers were men and why the few women present addressed a nearly empty audience. Nevertheless, I, and many of my colleagues throughout the women's movement, spoke out against the threat that further erosion of media ownership rules poses to our democracy.

The bottom line is that there is a crisis of representation in the media and this is where FCC attention should lie. If you agree, please speak up and let the FCC know.

On behalf of this country's Invisible Majority, the Women's Media Center opposes FCC Chair Kevin J. Martin's reported plan to loosen media ownership. The proposed rules do nothing to include women and minorities, and until they do, should be opposed.