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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions S. 1563

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

S. 1563. A bill to require the Federal Communications Commission to report to Congress regarding the ownership and control of broadcast stations used to serve language minorities, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, Senator Clinton and I are proposing legislation to protect the voices of language minorities in our country. Representative Robert Menendez will be introducing a companion bill in the House after the August recess.
Our bill is called the National Minority Media Opportunities Act. Its goal is to see that Americans who are members of any "language minority" groups under the Voting Rights Act—defined as American Indian, Asian Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Hispanic Americans—are not injured by excessive media concentration of companies that broadcast primarily in their native languages.

Neither the Federal Communications Commission's new broadcast ownership regulations adopted on June 2 nor the previous regulations deal with the effects of growing media concentration on citizens relying on minority-language broadcasts for their news and information.

The FCC's new rules are already controversial because they allow excessive concentration, in spite of its effect on competition, the diversity of views, and other major national, State, and local priorities. Unfortunately, the specific and often more harmful effects of such concentration on minority populations have gone largely unnoticed.

For instance, surveys show that the majority of the nearly 40 million Hispanic Americans rely significantly on Spanish-language broadcast media for their news and information. Forty percent—nearly 16 million—of them rely predominantly on Spanish-language broadcast media, and 25 percent—nearly 10 million—rely exclusively on it.

Additional measures are clearly needed to guarantee that Americans who are members of minority language groups will continue to have access to diverse sources of news, information and cultural programming, and to opportunities for ownership of their media.

Our bill addresses these concerns by requiring the FCC to hold public hearings, with notice and opportunity to comment, before approving the transfer of a license for a station serving a minority-language audience. It also requires the FCC to report to Congress on issues involving the concentration of ownership and control of minority-language broadcast media and the effects of excessive concentration on competition and diversity in these minority-language markets.

The bill will continue the Nation's strong commitment to competition in broadcast media and the fullest possible participation in the political process for all our citizens, including the growing number of those whose first language is English. We look forward to working with our colleagues in Congress to enact this needed legislation.

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