Familiar problems of tight-fisted lenders and new hurdles brought by the coronavirus, and the recent focus on racial justice dominated much of the conversation Friday as the FCC’s Diversity Advisory Committee put the focus on broadcast ownership. The daylong symposium was held virtually, a reflection of the current situation with COVID-19. Beasley Broadcast Group CEO Caroline Beasley, who chairs the FCC Diversity Committee’s Access to Capital Working Group, said their focus “shifted” this year as the impact of the pandemic on business became clear.
Much of the discussion centered on the ongoing problem of too little financing available for minority owners, which has prevented them from buying stations. FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said the pandemic has only made the problem worse for small business owners like radio station operators. “Many of them are in small markets where they operate on razor thin margins to be profitable. Unfortunately, some have had to shutter and hopefully more won’t before this is over,” he said.
Starks, like nearly all of the speakers, backed a revival of a minority tax certificate program, which has been long been endorsed by the Diversity Committee. The bill that use the federal tax code to incentivize current radio and TV station owners to spin-off stations to women and minorities was passed out of committee in September and there is hope it will be taken up by the House and Senate during the lame duck session.