Thursday, October 19, 2017
From Partnerships to Ownership: Promoting a Culture of Change in the Media
By Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Published May 3, 2007

I was one of a small delegation of leaders who met with executives at NBC and CBS. During both meetings, we discussed the dire need for increased dialogue and the importance of constructing meaningful partnerships to combat divisive patterns and practices in mass media.

From the onset of this debate, I have maintained the issue is far larger than an isolated verbal assault. All Americans have the right to free speech. We should not allow individuals to misuse and abuse their positions in the media to publicly castigate and denigrate others. We must promote a culture of change to eradicate racially and sexually degrading and other discriminatory depictions in the media. We can accomplish this by pushing networks to increase opportunities for minorities and women, supporting ethnic media, and advocating for change in government.

We must demand that networks and other media organizations implement policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion. We need to ensure that these companies provide minorities and women with employment opportunities that increase their numbers not only in front of the camera, but also in decision-making positions behind the camera. We must work in collaboration with colleges and universities to offer training, mentoring, internship, and scholarship programs that encourage minorities and women to pursue careers in the media.

There are more than 1,000 publications targeted at women and minorities in the United States. We must support these organizations! For 180 years, black publications have documented the African American story and continue to make sure the world is aware of the African American experience. The multicultural media serves as a vital source of information about the lifestyle, culture, achievements, activities, and ongoing struggles of ethnic minorities for equal opportunities in education, employment, housing, and healthcare in order to live a quality life in America's democracy. We must subscribe to these publications, support their initiatives, and encourage businesses and organizations to advertise with them.

While we must work with networks and other media organizations to ensure minority and female representation, we must also generate avenues through which we can create and control our images. We must fight to remove barriers to media ownership. We must work to change existing rules that regulate the industry, because the government is the true gatekeeper to providing equal opportunities for media ownership.

According to a recent study commissioned by Free Press, a national nonpartisan media research organization, women comprise 51 percent of the U.S. population, but own only 4.97 percent of all broadcast stations. Additionally, minorities represent 33 percent of the entire population, but own only 3.26 percent percent of all broadcast stations. While female and minority ownership has increased in other sectors of the marketplace, it has declined in the broadcast industry. I have asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to re-evaluate the agency's current rules and their impact on minority ownership.

As a sixth term member of Congress and current Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, an organization that represents more than 40 million Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, I have supported-and will continue to support-increased opportunities for all minorities and women in mass media. Diversity is America's strength. We must teach our children and grandchildren to celebrate and appreciate our differences. We must help them understand that all people have value and deserve respect. We must come together and use our differences to address our collective challenges if we are serious about preserving the American Dream and building stronger families, healthier communities, and a united America.

Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is serving her sixth term as the U. S. Representative for Michigan's 13th District. For more information about Congresswoman Kilpatrick, visit her website at To sign up to receive information and updates from the Congressional Black Caucus, go to

Categories: Op-Ed

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