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Consumer, Minority Rights Groups Support Broadwave

By akb in Media
Tue Apr 17, 2001 at 03:07:24 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

A coalition of consumer and minority rights groups have issued a statement supporting Broadwave's effort to provide a new broadband video and internet service. In their comments to the FCC, the groups, which include Consumer's Union, the League of Latin American Citizens and the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, contend that granting Broadwave licenses to deploy its service will serve the public interest by providing much needed competition to the incumbent cable and digital satellite broadcast (DBS) providers and presents a rare opportunity for diversity in broadcasting because of the significant stake in the company held by women and minorities.


Broadwave is a partnership of Northpoint Technologies (no, not the failed DSL provider) and 69 affiliates, 80% of which are owned by women or minorities. Upon deployment, it plans to offer video services that are 10-15% cheaper than comparable cable TV packages, with broadband internet services offered later at a similar price advantage. Broadwave's bid to obtain licenses for its service has been bitterly opposed by the cable and digital broadcast satellite (DBS) industry, lead by (surprise) its potential competitors, the two main DBS providers DirecTV and Echostar, and the nation's largest cable distributor, AT&T (all pdf).

The Broadwave service utilizes the same frequencies allocated to DBS, however it is a terrestrially based technology that uses a novel technique to share the spectrum with the existing users. The incumbent license holders have sought to prevent the FCC from allowing Broadwave to share the spectrum with them citing interference concerns. Studies by the FCC and Lucent have concluded that this spectrum sharing will result in only negligible interference to DBS services. Not surprisingly, these findings are disputed by some of the DBS providers, with whom Broadwave would compete.

Gene Kimmelman of Consumer's Union dismisses the interference concerns raised by the incumbents saying "The efforts by AT&T and DBS to deny Broadwave a license appear to be nothing more than attempts to block competition. The best way for the FCC to put an end to skyrocketing cable rates in the near future is allowing Broadwave to begin competing as soon as possible."

Kimmelman's contention that the interference issue is actually an effort to use the regulatory process to stifle competition is buttressed by the interest DBS providers DirecTV and Echostar have shown in following Broadwave in providing services using similar technology. Further, Kimmelman's concerns about the high rate of increase in cable rates is supported by a recent report by the Department of Labor. The report found that rates have increased at three times the rate of inflation since the implementation of deregulation mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In the deregulated environment envisioned by the Act's architects, the DBS service was supposed to provide an important source of competition to the incumbent cable companies. However, the comments filed by the consumer and civil rights groups maintain that "DBS does not have a price disciplining effect on cable".

Consumer and civil rights groups champion Broadwave not only for the public interest that they hope it will serve by providing competition in the marketplace but also by virtue of the fact that it is a media outlet that is substantially controlled by women and minorities. Broadwave affiliates, which control three-quarters of the equity in the venture, are 80% women or minorities. According to a recent report on ownership by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) minority ownership of media outlets has declined dramatically since the consolidation brought about by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Changes, Challenges, and Charting New Courses: Minority Commercial Broadcast Ownership in the United States, 2000). The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters maintains in its comments that the lack of minority owned media is harmful to society and that the Broadwave service "provides an opportunity for the Commission to promote minority ownership and employment opportunities and the concomitant benefits to editorial diversity and economic empowerment."

Currently, the FCC is reviewing the latest comments that it has received and is expected to rule shortly on granting Broadwave the licenses it is seeking to broadcast to 65% of the US population. The FCC had previously acted to grant the licenses to Broadwave, however, was forced to re-review the application by Congress at the urging of the DBS and cable lobby.

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Consumer, Minority Rights Groups Support Broadwave | 14 comments (14 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
More competition is good but . . . (none / 0) (#1)
by adamsc on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 02:22:04 AM EST

When did this become a big issue? TV is a luxury - if consumers think they're getting gouged, it's trivial to live without it.

In the US at least (3.50 / 2) (#2)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 04:11:27 AM EST

TV, and even cable, are unfortunately considered to be part of the de facto birthright of all citizens. People without TVs are considered to be wierd freaks and probably communists.

[ Parent ]
internet access is going that way too (none / 0) (#4)
by Justinfinity on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 04:24:45 AM EST

people are dumbfounded if they hear someone doesn't have some sort of 'net access at home. they both have become a part of "normal society" (i hate that term). if you don't have cable, people think you are strange, or just poor.

-justin
[ Parent ]
Oh no, he found us out! (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by Jin Wicked on Tue Apr 17, 2001 at 02:23:21 PM EST

I'm a communist and I don't own a TV. :)


This post was probably not written by the real Jin Wicked. Please see user "butter pie" for Jin's actual posts.


[ Parent ]
competition breeds better product... (4.66 / 3) (#3)
by Justinfinity on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 04:22:36 AM EST

but what does it have to do with minority groups? if BroadWave is mainly run by minority groups, is it still going to cater to the non-minorities? or will the so-called majority just have to stick with BroadWaves competitors to get what they want?

statements like this: "The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters maintains in its comments that the lack of minority owned media is harmful to society" make me wonder if minorities really want equality. i understand that many groups feel oppressed and prejudged, but intentionally seperating themselves is going to lead to more problems IMO.

if BroadWave really wants to be succesful, they will provide what the consumers demand, all the consumers. i highly doubt AT&T cares what race or gender it's subscribers are. BroadWave shouldn't either. and making a big deal about catering to minorities is only going to piss off non-minorities. and that's something no smart business does.

personally i don't care who runs a company, or their target market. i just care if they give me what i want, preferably at a lower cost as well. if BroadWave can do that, it doesn't matter if there are more women than men on the board.

-justin
why diversity in media ownership is good for us (5.00 / 2) (#7)
by anonymous cowerd on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 11:05:26 AM EST

...if BroadWave is mainly run by minority groups, is it still going to cater to the non-minorities?

This is irrelevant and impertinent, but did anyone else get a cheap laugh out of the fact that a cable company run by women is called BroadWave?

Anyway, if it's supposed to be a comptetitor to the established cable companies I imagine it would offer the same line-up of channels they do. As far as your notion that

...catering to minorities is only going to piss off non-minorities...

that's a little hard to buy. I, for example, being very-pale-white and all, tend to skip past the BET channel on those rare occasions when I can stomach watching TV at all, but I can't say I am particularly offended by the fact that it's there in the line-up to be skipped over. If these BroadWave folks present the Caucasian majority with, say, three or four BETs to skip over, I hardly think that will be too great an imposition for anyone saner than Klansmen to tolerate.

The mere fact that there may be new competition is this seller's market is almost certainly good from the price aspect. That means it's good for us, the consumers. However, if it were just another company dominated by rich white investors, then we would have no reason to believe that it would significantly expand the range of topics which are acceptable to broadcast.

For one example, check out the big news agencies's coverage of the ersatz power shortage in California. Why, to listen to the big four news agencies go on, you'd think the primary cause was that those profligate Californian consumers simply use too much electricity! Do you seriously expect, for example, CBS (I mean, Westinghouse) or NBC (that is, General Electric) to provide you with the viewpoint of the opponents to the power generating firms which have so carefully orchestrated that "crisis"? That's why it's makes it even more interesting that this potential new player might have a built-in institutional bias which diverges from the bias of the existing mass media corporations. It could mean that in addition to all the mainstream pap that comes in over the standard cable channels, there will also be a market for investigative TV reporting that the big four currently simply refuse to broadcast.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

the issue is diversity in ownership (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by akb on Tue Apr 17, 2001 at 10:40:38 AM EST

statements like this: "The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters maintains in its comments that the lack of minority owned media is harmful to society"

It seems like I should have spent more time on this part of the article, as I didn't get across all that I wanted too. The thinking is that lack of diversity in ownership is related to lack of diversity in editorial policy and programming. Media is, in a sense, society's consciousness so if it doesn't have diverse interests represented in its control society is not exposed to a diversity of views and opinions, which is where the harm to society comes in.

make me wonder if minorities really want equality. i understand that many groups feel oppressed and prejudged, but intentionally seperating themselves is going to lead to more problems IMO.

Minorities own 2% of the nation's TV stations. This sounds unequal to me. The media should be everyone's not just those with the most money. Democracy requires media that are able to represent a wide range of views, if money == speech this cannot occur.

i highly doubt AT&T cares what race or gender it's subscribers are.

AT&T will care if its advertisers care. See Anything but Racism: Media make excuses for "whitewashed" TV lineup by Janine Jackson at FAIR, advertising rates of shows with a minority audience are significantly less than (in some cases half) shows with a primarily white audience.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net
[ Parent ]

More TV Time = Good? (4.66 / 3) (#5)
by duxup on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 04:26:54 AM EST

Maybe I'm missing something here, what benefit to women or minority groups would this provide?

It would seem that they would provide internet access to the same internet everyone connects to. They would provide cable TV to the same TV channels, since it doesn't sound like they will be producing content. No doubt Friends will still be a group of white people sitting around drinking expensive coffee complaining about nothing. There will still be the same group focused channels like Univision, BET, and Lifetime that you can already find as well. Other than lower prices (that would be nice for everyone), I can't see a benefit.

Even with lower prices I have to ask: Does any group that wishes to provide more opportunities for them self intellectually or financially really need more time watching TV or on the Internet?

Is anyone (regardless of race or sex), not already working on improving themselves, going to suddenly start watching The History Channel? I'd guess no.


Not content, providers (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by lonesmurf on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 10:01:04 AM EST

As I understood it, it is not so much the content that is supportive of minorities (for that, you would need to get all of hollywood to hire more minorities and create more varied characters, fat chance) but the providers that are more friendly to hiring minorities. In turn, those companies that are more friendly to hiring minorities, will be more likely to host content itself that is minority centric.

Forgive the terribly large paranthetical aside, I am too lazy to rewrite.


Rami

I am not a jolly man. Remove the mirth from my email to send.


[ Parent ]
Discrimination (4.66 / 3) (#6)
by onyxruby on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 10:38:16 AM EST

Purchasing something just because the vendor is minority owned is just as bad as not purchasing something because it is minority owned. It's still discrimination, plain and simple. Now if I purchase something and it just happens to be from a minority owned company, I could care less. Besides, minority doesn't even mean minority, anymore it's just a term for not being a white male.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

re: Discrimination (5.00 / 2) (#9)
by technik on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 01:50:04 PM EST

Purchasing something just because the vendor is minority owned is just as bad as not purchasing something because it is minority owned. It's still discrimination, plain and simple.

And that is a good thing. A working market will allow consumers to choose the products they buy based upon what ever criteria they consider important. A large number of consumers do not believe that low price is the single most important aspect in purchasing a product. Confronted with products of equal quality and similar price they may choose to buy "Made in the USA" or a particular trademark or from a local manufacturer or dealer for reasons such as nationalism, support for unions, growing their community, or any of countless others. Consumers making an informed choice about products is the ideal for a free market and producers are going to court these consumers in an effort to win their purchases. Some will recognize that "minority" groups- regardless of definition- will more heavily weigh non-price issues than the statistical norm and the producers will market to that demand.

The word 'discrimination' has taken on the negative connotations ascribed to it from U.S. history of race-relations but 'being discriminating' is not a bad thing and choosing to buy or not buy- rather than being coerced- is a very good thing.

[ Parent ]
how dare you use the M-word! (none / 0) (#8)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 11:21:40 AM EST

as our friends in san diego have noted, it signifies inferiority! This is me making a funny-ha-ha, for the humor impaired

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

I've got really mixed feelings about this. (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by marlowe on Tue Apr 17, 2001 at 11:34:16 AM EST

On the one hand, it's good to see McMedia getting some competition. But all this talk about designated victim groups just reeks of entitlement.

I think it's high time us non-rich white dudes got ourselves declared an official victim group. In fact, I think everybody should be in a victim group. Then it would all cancel out.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
more info on Broadwave (none / 0) (#14)
by akb on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 05:53:59 PM EST

Here's an article from industry rag Broadcasting and Cable that goes into some depth about Broadwave and the FCC wranglings that are going on.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net

Consumer, Minority Rights Groups Support Broadwave | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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