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Tom – Acording to Media Matters reports, women and people of color are still grossly underrepresented in our country’s newscasts. The first study, “Locked Out: The Lack of Gender & Ethnic Diversity on Cable News Continues,” shows how few women and people of color appear on the five cable networks (CNBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, MSNBC and Fox News Channel). Aside from the Imus scandal coverage, which featured more African-American guests, members of all minority groups were “scarcely seen” as guests on the shows airing between 4 p.m. and midnight and women comprised as little as 20 percent of all guests. The study also found that there were no minority hosts on the shows airing after 4 p.m. on any of the five networks and just a small percentage of female hosts.
Linda – The more recent media matters report looked at race and gender representation on the Sunday morning news lineup. What did this study find?
Tom – Much like the other report, this one also found a startling lack of diversity. “Sunday Shutout: The Lack of Gender & Ethnic Diversity on the Sunday Morning Talk Shows,” found that women and people of color are rarely featured on the influential Sunday talk shows including NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week, CBS’s Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday. The report found that men outnumber women by a 4-to-1 ratio on these shows and that there were between seven to nine white guests for every minority guest, depending on the show.
Linda – Do these results correspond with other reports that have looked at diversity in media?
Tom – Yes, and not just in terms of on-air representation. Last year freepress.net did a report on race and gender in media ownership called “Out of the Picture.” This report found that only 3 percent of the broadcast television stations are owned by minorities, and 5 percent of the stations are owned by women. To break it down even further, only 1.3 percent of all TV stations are owned by African Americans even though they comprise 13 percent of all Americans, and Hispanics own 1.1 percent of all stations, despite being 14 percent of the population. This trend has not gotten better with time but actually worse over the last decade. Since 1998, black ownership of TV stations has dropped almost 30% and freepress.net notes that many of these sales of stations would not have occurred under pre-1996 nationwide ownership caps or the pre 1999 ban on local duopolies.
Linda – What is the FCC doing to reverse these trends of low diversity in the media?
Tom – Very little, in fact, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants to change the rules to let Big Media get even bigger. On June 21, 2006, Martin issued a draft proposal -- called a Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making, that would further relax that rules that ensure diverse ownership of local media entities. In particular this proposal would eliminate two key protections: The rule on "newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership," which prevents companies from owning a television or radio station and the major daily newspaper in the same area. And two, the local ownership caps that limit a company from owning more than one television station in most markets. According to freepress.net’s “Stop Big Media” campaign, “If both changes were approved, one company could potentially own the major daily newspaper, eight radio stations and three television stations in the same town. Once the digital television transition is completed in 2009 -- allowing stations to broadcast multiple signals – one company could control 12 or even 18 television channels in a single city.
Linda – We will provide links to the aforementioned reports and the “Stop big media campaign” on our website
Linda – Speaking of big media, there have been several high profile media buy outs this past week, totaling tens of billions of dollars.
Tom - In the world of radio, clear channel, the largest radio chain in the country accepted a buyout offer from Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital worth $19.5 billion. This sale will make clear channel a private company and comes after clear channel had sold off its concert and event business, its TV stations and several of its radio stations in smaller markets. Locally Clear Channel has seven radio stations in this listening market.
Linda – In the online world, Microsoft made its biggest purchase to date.
Tom – Microsoft purchased aQauntive, an online advertising company for six billion dollars. This came after Microsoft failed to purchase rival online advertiser Doubleclick, which instead was purchased by Google. These moves have caused a number of moves in the online advertising business, with Yahoo purchasing the ad company Right Media and WPP buying 23/7.
Linda – And over in the communications sector, wireless phone company Alltel was purchased for 27. 5 billion dollars.
Tom – Like Clear Channel, Alltel was purchased by a private equity firm, in this case a consortium including Texas Pacific Group and Goldman Sachs. According to the wall street journal, Private-equity investors are showing strong interest in telecom companies. Other companies rumored to be attracting attention from private equity firms include Sprint Nextel. This spate of buyouts by equity firms did garner some attention in Washington where the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled Private Equity’s Effects on Workers and Firms.” According to the New York Times, of the 70 members of the commission, fewer than a dozen attended the session.
Linda – We will provide links to articles on these various buyouts.
Linda – While there have been numerous studies as to the role of food advertising to kids in traditional media, a new study looks at how food marketers advertise to children online. Tom – The Center for Digital Democracy has released a 98-page report on the practices of food marketers on cell phones, digital video, social networks, games and virtual worlds. The CDD presented the report to the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission yesterday. This release coincided with an FTC deadline for public comment on food marketers' tactics to reach children across all media. The report, called Interactive Food & Beverage Marketing: Targeting Children and Youth highlights new types of digital media marketing by food and beverage companies, including tactics such as food company-created viral videos on YouTube and fast-food characters posing as "friends" on the teen hangout MySpace.
Linda – This comes at a time when there has been increased awareness of the role on food advertising in the growing childhood obesity epidemic.
Tom - Parents, educators and health officials have been becoming increasingly aware of the problem of childhood obesity in the United States. An estimated 2 million children ages 12 to 19 have experienced a pre-diabetic condition that's linked to obesity and inactivity. Researchers have also shown that food and beverage advertising greatly influences kids' purchasing choices and eating habits. As a result, government regulators, under pressure form congress, are examining food marketing more closely. In the coming months, the FTC plans to subpoena 44 food, beverage and fast-food companies for details on their marketing practices to children, including their spending. In terms of online advertising to children, report co-author Kathryn C. Montgomery said "It's essentially an unregulated new frontier for these marketers, and they're trying everything they can to get at kids and teens," "Some of the tactics may well be deceptive and a number of them may be unfair, flying under the radar of parents, and federal and health regulators."
Linda – We will provide a link to an article on this on our website.