Fwd: Headlines: Diversity in Broadcasting

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Tue, 5 Jan 1999 10:49:28 -0800 (PST)

>As noted last week, the President's Advisory Committee on Public Interest
>Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters sent its recommendations to
>Vice President Gore on December 18. The report, Charting the Digital
>Broadcasting Future, is ~160 pages. It is available online as a large PDF
>file, but we wanted to offer some "bite-sized" chunks that are easier to
>read and digest. At the risk of accusation of being Lucas imitators, today
>we post recommendations 7, 8 and 9 which have not been getting much press:
>1) Disability Access to Digital Programming, 2) Disaster Warnings in the
>Digital Age, and 3) Diversity in Broadcasting. We will post more after the
>holidays. We welcome comments on the report and will be happy to make them
>all available on a website that will be the online home of the PIAC legacy
>at <www.benton.org/PIAC>.
>Diversity in Broadcasting
>Diversity is an important value in broadcasting, whether it is in
>programming, political discourse, hiring, promotion, or business
>opportunities within the industry. The Advisory Committee recommends that
>broadcasters seize the opportunities inherent in digital television
>technology to substantially enhance the diversity available in the
>television marketplace. Serving diverse interests within a community is both
>good business and good public policy.
>Much attention has been paid historically to the concept of "diversity" in
>broadcast programming. It is undeniably a good thing for the broadcast
>industry as a whole to present a wide range of information, opinion and
>entertainment programming, including programming that responds to the needs
>and interests of minorities and other underserved communities in our
>society. Some argue that the marketplace can be relied upon to generate this
>diversity. Others say that government-imposed station ownership limits, and
>policies encouraging station ownership by minorities are necessary, at least
>as adjuncts to marketplace forces. The Advisory Committee recognizes the
>value of program and viewpoint diversity and recommends that broadcasters
>take the opportunity presented by the innate flexibility of digital
>television to enhance substantially the diversity available in the
>television marketplace.
>Much of the discussion and many of the recommendations contained elsewhere
>in this report bear on the diversity issue. For example, we have recommended
>that innovation in the use of digital channels for multiplexed, multichannel
>programming not be discouraged by government policy. A multichannel digital
>broadcasting model could, of course, include program streams that are
>"narrowcasts" aimed at distinct audiences, including minority groups and
>other underserved communities. Multiplexing could also create new
>opportunities for minority entrepreneurship through channel-leasing
>agreements, partnerships, and other creative business arrangements.
>We have also recommended that, at the end of the transition, one new 6 MHz
>broadcast channel should be reserved in each market for noncommercial,
>educational purposes, including the provision of educational programming
>directed at minority groups and other underserved communities. We have
>recommended that the flexibility of digital technology be exploited by the
>use of newly available audio channels to help serve the needs of individuals
>with disabilities. The Advisory Committee wants to emphasize that this
>enhanced audio capability will also facilitate increased use of foreign
>language audio tracks to expand the usefulness and entertainment value of
>broadcast programming for minority communities, and we recommend that
>broadcasters take advantage of this capability. Finally, our recommendations
>on ways that political discourse can be made more effective in the context
>of digital television will have a direct impact on the diversity of
>viewpoints that will be available on television in the future.
>Independent production is often a prime opportunity for the non-mainstream
>to be heard, including persons of color and cultural minorities, thereby
>adding to the plurality of voices represented in our mass communications.
>Therefore, our recommendations on diversity should serve to aid independent
>producers both in providing funding for programming and providing incentives
>for giving these voices access to the airwaves. Our recommendations should
>result in providing revenues to support the creation and promotion of
>programming from diverse and independent producers to air on noncommercial
>The Advisory Committee also believes that hiring and promotion policies that
>result in significant representation of minorities and women in
>decision-making positions in broadcast management could tend to increase
>programming diversity. While this effect may be difficult to prove or
>quantify, we believe that such policies (as well as policies facilitating
>station ownership by minorities and women) are important in their own right,
>apart from any direct impact on programming diversity. Digital television
>will gradually create new programming and business opportunities. The
>Advisory Committee recommends that broadcasters voluntarily redouble their
>individual and collective efforts during the digital transition to encourage
>effective participation by minorities and women at all levels of the industry.
>Serving diverse interests within a community is both good business and good
>public policy. Broadcasters should aggressively seek out ways to employ
>digital technology in creative ways to accomplish this goal, including but
>not limited to those described above.
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Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley, CA 94720-6000

"You are looking into the mind of home video. It is innocent, it is aimless,
it is determined, it is real" --Don DeLillo, Underworld