It’s important to celebrate whenever social barriers are knocked down — including the one that fell today when Mignon Clyburn became the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission.
Never before has a president appointed a woman to chair the commission — not even on an interim basis.
It’s not the first time Clyburn has made history. She’s also the first African-American woman to serve as an FCC commissioner.
But there are still many barriers that need to be knocked down. For one, we need to remove the “acting” title for the next woman to chair the FCC.
Clyburn’s accomplishment is also an opportunity to reflect on the FCC’s history of permitting and even exacerbating inequality. For evidence, just consider the impact of the agency’s policy decisions on women and people of color.
It’s no accident that our nation’s media system looks the way it does; it reflects our nation’s legacy of discrimination. Most of our first broadcast licenses were allocated to white men or white-run companies. And not much has changed.
People of color own just 3 percent of all full-power TV stations and less than 8 percent of all full-power radio stations. Women own less than 7 percent of all full-power broadcast stations. These statistics explain both the lack of diversity among staff at broadcast outlets and the paltry amount of programming featuring people of color.
But instead of adopting policies that would boost ownership diversity, the FCC and Congress have consistently pushed for greater consolidation. Thanks to socioeconomic conditions, the FCC’s approach has made it even more difficult for women and people of color to buy broadcast stations.
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