FCC Launches Inquiry into TV Diversity

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched an inquiry into the state of diverse programming on television, seeking to determine whether independent programmers face undue burdens in gaining carriage from traditional cable operators and other multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).

The agency issued a Notice of Inquiry Thursday to determine what, if any, action it could take to promote independent and diverse television programming.

“What we see on the screen says so much about who we are as individuals, as communities, and as a Nation,” the FCC’s Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “In this season of #OscarsSoWhite and female directors so few, starting a conversation about programming diversity and independent voices might be hard — but it’s the right thing to do.”

The inquiry will examine contractual provisions in carrier agreements, distribution platforms, MVPD negotiation tactics, and claims that MVPDs limit access to public, educational, and governmental programming.

The inquiry will also determine what, if any, legal authority the Commission has to take action if necessary.

The FCC’s investigation into diverse television programming comes several months after the federal government first became involved in investigating a lack of diversity in the entertainment industry.

In October, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) launched an official investigation into the lack of female directors on Hollywood films. The agency met with female directors working in the industry to discuss their stories and the obstacles women face within the profession.

The EEOC investigation was prompted by a a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asking the agency to investigate the “systemic failure” of film studios to hire female directors. According to the ACLU, of the 1,300 top-grossing films spanning a 12-year period between 2002-2014, just 4.1% were directed by women.


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