Race, Media Consolidation, and Online Content: The Lack of Substitutes Available to Media Consumers of Color

In its 2003 media ownership proceedings, the FCC relied on the existence of the Internet to provide justification for radically relaxing the FCC ownership rules. These rules limited the national audience reach of the broadcast licensees and the cross-ownership of different media properties by broadcasters and newspapers. In relaxing these rules, the FCC failed to recognize that a media submarket for African Americans and Latinos/as existed. This separate market is evidenced by the different television viewing habits of African Americans and Latinos/as as compared to Whites and Billboard magazine’s delineation of R&B/urban music radio stations as a separate radio station format. The FCC reliance on the Internet for these communities was misplaced because these communities are plagued by the Digital Divide, whereby African Americans and Latinos/as have lower Internet penetration rates than their White counterparts. The Internet fails to serve these minority submarkets. Access to the Internet at schools and libraries provides secondclass access for Internet users of color People are limited by the hours of operation of the schools and libraries. They are likely to be subjected to the budgetary limitations of the government institution. They may have to wait on long lines to gain access. Over-expansive filters may restrict Internet users from accessing important health information. Once the Internet user of color gains access to the Internet, he will find the web sites of the traditional media may have the same stereotypes and absences that exist on their broadcast channels. For all these reasons, the Internet fails as a substitute available to media consumers of color.