THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK-OWNED BROADCASTERS (As Prepared for Delivery) Thursday, September 17, 1998
It is always a deep personal honor for me to come before the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters -- for the third time in five years.
The news is better covered, and the country is better served, if our reporters, editors, newspapers, and radio and TV stations reflect the full diversity of the country they serve. Thank you, NABOB, for nearly a quarter-century of leadership.
Over the past 22 years, you have helped open the doors of opportunity to a whole new generation of owners and journalists. Until 1949, there wasn't even one black-owned radio station in the United States. Today, NABOB represents 157 black-owned stations and 18 commercial television stations. In an industry that has gone from album to 8-track to cassette to CD to digital tape to DVD to improve clarity the past two decades, the clearest voice of all has been provided by the men and women of NABOB. And we are a better nation for it.
Now, in this time of progress and prosperity, our challenge is opening those doors of opportunity even wider -- in your profession, and in all professions -- so that every child can share in the American Dream.
Look at how far we've already come: 16.7 million new jobs. The lowest unemployment in a generation. The lowest African-American and Hispanic unemployment on record. The lowest African-American poverty rate on record. The fastest real wage growth in 25 years. More small businesses created the past 5 1/2 years than in the previous 12 years combined -- all with the lowest inflation in 32 years.
And we should remember that all of this progress is due to the policies of one person -- President Bill Clinton. His policies and programs have been good for the United States of America.
We are especially proud of the fact that one of the most successful administrations in history is also the most diverse.
As NABOB has helped teach us for more than 20 years: we are not successful in spite of our diversity -- we are successful because of it!
But we also know that the brightest lights sometimes cast the biggest shadows. For all we have done, we have a lot more to do. There are still too many people who have not shared in our success, who are still waiting for the chance to prove themselves. And in too many places and professions, the glass ceiling has still not been shattered.
Tomorrow, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will release its 1998 Minority Commercial Broadcast Ownership Report. It shows that minorities now own 337 of the 11,524 commercial broadcast stations nationwide. That's just 2.9 percent.
The report also shows that minority ownership of TV stations fell from 38 stations to 32 stations -- and the number of minority television station owners fell from 22 to 13. There are still no minority owners in 17 states. And while minorities now own 23 more radio stations than they did last year, it mostly came through consolidation at the expense of other minority owners -- 11 black, 8 Hispanic, one Asian-American, and three Native American.
This isn't just a question of diversity, it's a question of democracy. In the marketplace of ideas, independent minority-owned broadcast stations play a vital role in this country. As a nation, we cannot afford to lose your voice. That's why President Clinton and I are committed to doing all we can to preserve and sustain it.
First, on the individual level, we must continue to do all we can to promote the hiring and training of minorities in the broadcast industry. For nearly 30 years, we have had a valuable FCC rule in place that required broadcast licensees to make special efforts in recruiting and outreach to minority employees. As most of you know, that rule was struck down, and our request for a re-hearing was denied. Despite that disappointment, this week's decision is not the final word. The Department of Justice and the FCC are reviewing the various opinions that were released and will decide whether or not to appeal. In the meantime, I support Chairman Kennard's efforts to revise the rule so we can do the most possible in this area within the constraints of the court's decision.
We are also working to promote diversity from within. Earlier this year, I convened a task force of ten federal agencies to increase diversity in broadcasting, and particularly in hiring practices. Bill Kennard has made opportunity a cornerstone of his agenda and has worked hard to secure 21 voluntary commitments -- including the nation's largest cable and broadcast stations -- to voluntarily continue their EEO practices, and has promoted the message that most broadcasters already know: we are all better off if everyone has a chance to succeed. That point was proven by two former Ivy League Presidents -- Harvard's Derek Bok and Princeton's William Bowen -- who recently found that universities that make an extra effort to recruit qualified African-American students are rewarded with students who work just as hard, are just as likely to graduate -- and more likely to participate in the community. Because of it, the entire community benefits from a diversity of views. The same is true of broadcasting. It would be a tragedy if the next Tom Joyner or Pierre Sutton is being turned away because they didn't get the chance. I challenge broadcasters to live up to their public interest obligations and show their leadership in the community by recognizing and embracing the importance of diversity.
Second, on the ownership level, we need to be sure that consolidation does not lead to elimination of minority broadcasters and minority voices. We have all seen the benefits of consolidation in many industries. But in broadcasting, consolidation has also placed new demands on independent stations and minority owners. The more the bar gets raised, the harder it is to compete. More and more minority owners are being forced to sell to majority-owned conglomerates or minority group owners. If this trend continues, we risk losing not just minority representation in the ownership ranks, but crucial opportunities in the workforce and voices in the community.
Over the past three years, the broadcast industry has benefited handsomely from this great wave of consolidation. As they reap these rewards and seek even greater opportunities to consolidate, I believe they should help others benefit as well. The FCC is working with broadcasters right now to explore new ways to ensure that as the industry continues to consolidate, a rich, diverse array of voices is maintained on the public airwaves.
We are also working to help all small business owners get the access to capital they need to create jobs. We are proud of the fact that last year, the Small Business Administration made or guaranteed more than $13 billion in loans and venture capital investments -- including a record $2.6 billion to more than 10,600 minority-owned businesses. In fact, over the last four years, loans to minority borrowers have more than doubled. In addition, earlier this year, I was proud to announce a the first-ever agreement between the SBA and the Big Three auto makers, to increase subcontract awards to minority-owned businesses by $3 billion over the next three years -- a 50% increase over today's levels. We launched a new campaign to expand lending to African-American-owned small businesses by a dramatic $1.4 billion. And, we recently launched a new "Business LINC" Initiative, to encourage large businesses to mentor small, locally-owned businesses in distressed areas.
Today, we take another step forward. Today, I am asking our Small Business Administration to carefully review its efforts to help minority-owned broadcasters -- to make sure they receive the technical assistance, the mentoring, and the capital they need to succeed. We know how crucial this industry is to our future -- and we are committed to your strength and success.
Third, on the community level, we need to do all we can to promote advertising on minority-owned stations, and to ensure that the ugly face of discrimination is not being used to discourage advertisers. Like you, I was appalled when I read about that shameful memo urging advertisers not to use ethnic radio stations. There was no place for that kind of discrimination in 1968, there is no place for it in 1998, and we are taking new action to help prevent it.
I am pleased that the FCC is conducting a study on discrimination in the advertising market. We need to know all the facts, so we will know how to address them. I am also pleased to announce that this week, I will ask all federal agencies to review their own advertising policies, to ensure that our government is not part of the problem, but part of the solution. Together, let us work for basic justice and fairness -- on our airwaves, and all across America.
In this global economy, America carries a special obligation. People across the world see in America the reflection of their own great potential -- and they always will, as long as we give all our citizens, whatever their background, an opportunity to achieve their own greatness.
But to do that, we need all of you. Your tradition is a tradition of leadership and excellence. By providing diverse viewpoints; by supplying a vital training ground for the next generation of young thinkers and leaders; and by helping to ensure that our airwaves hold opportunity for all Americans, you help provide common ground for the American Dream.
So I look forward to working with you, to prove to the world that our diversity is a great strength -- and to harness that strength for the good of all our people, right here at home. Thank you.