FCC’s Martin Apologizes to Minority Groups

Aug 22, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin is apologizing to some minority groups, who contend his latest statements in a push to let cable customers choose their channels a la carte were “patronizing and insulting.”
While strongly defending his view that consumers, including minority consumers, would be better served by a la carte, Mr. Martin moved quickly to avert any long-term problems by suggesting some remarks he made Aug. 13 to the Aspen Institute’s Forum on Communications & Policy were misinterpreted.
The contretemps began when Mr. Martin, answering a forum question, cited a report from the Center for Public Integrity showing that some groups delivering dire warnings about a la carte’s impact get major support from cable companies, many of whom oppose a la carte.
“The Center for Public Integrity’s investigation ended up finding out that, rather than being disinterested, these third parties had much to gain,” Mr. Martin said. “There were hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and other benefits showered by the cable companies onto some of those nonprofits to take that position. So it’s a little unclear that the people that are concerned about the impact of a la carte haven’t also taken that position as a result of some of the … largesse … provided.”
In an angry letter sent today, executives of the Black Leadership Forum, the Hispanic Federation, the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the National Congress of Black Women, among others, suggested Mr. Martin’s accusation was directed at them and was “unfair and baseless.”
They also complained their concerns were being belittled.
“We are deeply troubled by your recent published comments in which you stated that major civil rights organizations were opposing a la carte regulations because of financial relationships that some may have with television programmers and distributors,” the letter said. “We found your comments patronizing and insulting, and ask that you make a public apology and issue a retraction.”
The groups claimed there was “near unanimity” among civil rights groups that a la carte would be “deeply harmful” to cable programming diversity, “a goal that we would hope that you would share.”
“Study after study—and minority programmer after minority programmer—has concluded that a federally mandated per-channel-charge regime would make it exceedingly difficult for new African American, Hispanic and women’s programmers to raise the necessary capital through advertising to adequately market new programming,” the letter said.
“The idea that you would suggest that you somehow know better about what is in the best interests of African American, Hispanic, women’s and other communities is puzzling, to say the very least,” it continued. “Moreover, your public argument that this consensus position is based not on our experience and knowledge about the communities that we represent, but because some interested party may have attended a fundraising dinner or supported another activity of ours, is a groundless and outrageous accusation that we do not take lightly.”
In a reply also sent today, Mr. Martin said the study he cited referred to some “grassroots” groups—not civil rights groups—being part of a sophisticated lobbying campaign opposing a la carte. He added that he had high regard for the civil rights groups.
Mr. Martin reiterated that he believed “offering channels in a more a la carte manner could actually benefit program diversity.” He cited examples of minority-directed channels unable to get onto cable systems that would have an easier time if consumers could pick them.


  1. Seems to me that these left-leaning “ACLU-types” doth protest too much! Why do they try to make any and all ideas somehow a racial issue?
    Ala carte cable is similar to the C-Band Big Dish system in use for years, and none of them were heard regarding that ala carte operation?
    Guess they missed that one, eh?
    And just how is any of this ‘racial?’

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