For five decades, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has struggled to implement policies that promote minority ownership of broadcast stations. Four “Prometheus” decisions from the Third Circuit span a seventeen-year legal impasse that highlighted the agency’s shortcomings on effective minority ownership policies. Now, after the Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project, the FCC is required to relaunch its media ownership policy in 2022. This paper explores how the FCC has interpreted diversity in media ownership policymaking by examining a range of diversity policies and assessment methodologies particularly regarding minority ownership. The paper then presents data from a thirty-year period to demonstrate that the impasse of the Prometheus cases corresponded with significant growth in minority station ownership. Results of a series of independent empirical tests examining the connection between ownership and diversity, and assessing the diversity of content production in broadcast radio by company size and ownership by race and ethnicity, are discussed in the context of the legal rulings.
Regulatory Paralysis: The Answer to the Unanswerable Question of FCC Minority Ownership Policy,
Mich. Tech. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mtlr/vol29/iss2/3