This Former FCC Chair Does Not Support The Tax Certificate


On Wednesday we reported that 9 former FCC Chair’s were in favor of Congressional legislation reinstating a tax certificate program to encourage investment in station ownership for women and people of color. One FCC Chair not in favor of that idea is Mark Fowler. Here’s what he had to say…

Dear broadcasters:

I thought carefully, but I cannot support this proposal. The main reasons:
This legislation mandates that buyers with the “right” skin color or sex are preferred over others; the mere stating of the proposition suggests how terribly wrong and evil it is. It will divide Americans at the precise time Lady Liberty beckons all of us to fight as a unified people to preserve our endangered, America. America needs all Americans, none separated into skin-colored or gender-classified groups, to preserve and defend the unique American promise of equality of opportunity for all.

President Reagan, Martin Luther King, and a number of other chairmen who have declined to sign this statement, have always opposed racial discrimination of any kind. It is the person, not skin color or sex, that determines outcomes, not big government.

When we had 1071 on the books, there was great abuse, causing the policy to be scrapped by the Congress in 1995. Why should a wealthy minority (an actual case) have preference over another buyer whose skin color is white?

If I remember correctly, the average holding periods of 1071 stations acquired was just over 3 years. They were then sold mostly to non-preferred whites! Studies failed to show any significant connection between 1071 ownership and minority or female viewpoints expressed. So much for this flimsy excuse — once again resurrected by the NAB.

Last, 1071 is an anachronism. With radio, television, the internet, and hundreds of black and female hosts on the media with their own shows and podcasts, there is no discernible lack of minor or female viewpoints. I challenge anyone to name one issue of significance regarding women or minorities not fully covered by today’s media. They cannot.

It is not surprising broadcasters love tax deferral. This is understandable. But this is blatantly unconstitutional. Look for Justice Clarence Thomas to write the opinion saying so.

Mark Fowler was FCC Chairman from May 18, 1981 to April 17, 1987.


  1. Mr. Fowler is focusing on the wrong part of this proposal. He’s saying diverse viewpoints are being presented. But that ignores the fact that minorities are still under-represented among owners. And typically the reason is due to lack of access to capital. Broadcasters these days have very limited sources for capital. It’s down to a handful of very large multi-billion dollar investment firms. They are the only ones willing to take a risk on broadcasting. The traditional sources for capital, such as banks, no longer make loans for broadcasting.

    Year after year the FCC (under both parties) complains about the lack of diversity in ownership, and year after year they empower task forces to look into the issue. Nothing gets done because the reason is lack of capital. Yes it’s also a problem for small white owners. So if you want to remove race from the proposal, fine. But the FCC should stop bemoaning the lack of minority ownership every year. That problem will not get fixed until the funding problem gets addressed.

  2. Good for him that his head is still in the sand. For the rest of us, it is not. Here is an issue, Mr. Fowler: the extremely consequential election of the Manhattan District Attorney. One could argue that this election, more than any other local election (perhaps other than mayoral), would impact the futures of Black and brown families in Manhattan. Because of the lack of diverse ownership in NYC, the #1 market in the country, the market which is the home to ten percent of Black Americans, there were two interviews with the only Black candidate in that race and a total of MAYBE six interviews with the eight candidates seeking this extraordinarily powerful seat. Market-wide. In New York City! It was a disgrace. Black ownership- thoughtful Black ownership that understands the issues and their importance to our community- would most certainly make a difference. In fact, it did once upon a time. It was called Inner City Broadcasting. So please. Don’t challenge anyone to come up with a single issue that could use diverse storytelling. There is a multitude. Your saying there isn’t is pure ridiculousness. As is Clarence Thomas sitting on the Supreme Court.


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