Media Diversity: Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is media diversity?
A. Our nation’s media system, from broadcast television to local radio, should be fully representative of the communities that it serves. A diverse media is one that is inclusive of minorities and women in content (what we see and hear), employment (who writes, reports and produces what we see and hear), and, most importantly, ownership (who owns the companies that dictate what we see and hear) so that the stories of all Americans can be told, and the voices of all Americans can be heard.
Q. Is there a lack of media diversity today?
A. Absolutely. From the inaccurate, narrow representation of minorities and women on television to the homogenous voices on mainstream radio, our nation’s media system is growing less and less diverse day by day. That’s because of the disproportionate lack of women and minority reporters, producers, and owners.
Q. I see plenty of minorities on TV. Isn’t that an example of media diversity?
A. Yes. However, not enough has been done to portray minorities accurately and fairly on television or within the media. While there has been some improvement, minorities are still not fully represented and as a result are stereotyped and caricatured. A truly diverse media allows for the voices of minorities, women, seniors, people with disabilities, and all Americans to be heard and accurately depicted. This means that all sectors of society must participate in media outlets through media ownership and employment.
Q. Who is responsible for ensuring that our nation’s media system is diverse and inclusive?
A. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the government agency that is directly charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. Specifically, the FCC determines reviews policies related to media ownership, including how many stations one company can own in each market. But, especially in recent years, it has frequently failed to protect America’s diverse voices. It is up to us to make the FCC do its job and better monitor and adjust current policy standards and impending changes to reflect the broad communities that it serves.
Q. If the FCC is responsible for making our nation’s media system diverse and inclusive, why does it seem as if media is getting less and less diverse?
A. The Communications Act of 1996 substantially deregulated national radio ownership rules and eased national TV ownership limits. This Act made it easier for large, white, male-owned corporations to own more media outlets nationwide, thus severely limiting the diversity of ownership, employment and content.
Q. Why should I care about media diversity? How does media diversity affect my community?
A. No matter what issues face your community - racial profiling, immigration reform, disability rights, LGBT equality - media and communications influence the perception and understanding of these issues for policymakers and us all. It is important for the voices of the civil rights community to be represented in the public dialogue, both locally and nationally. Media and communications policies influence the structures of our country’s communications systems that allow these messages to be seen and heard. When these structures are not diverse and reflective of your community’s perspectives, struggles and victories, we all lose.
Q. What can I do to join the fight for media justice and work for a more diverse media?
A. There are so many ways to get involved! From discussion groups, to mediamonitoring parties to letter writing campaigns…the possibilities are endless. But first, you must be informed! Stay informed at http://www.civilrights.org/issues/communication/ and start by paying attention to the media that you see and hear, from your local radio and public broadcasting stations to national news and media. Begin to identify ways in which the media can better serve your community.