WASHINGTON – Last week Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) secured a provision in the massive telecommunications reform bill aimed at enhancing the ownership stake of minority, women and small businesses as media ownership rules are revised by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The amendment was cosponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

“Media consolidation is making it harder for everyone to compete in the industry, especially small businesses, minorities and women. Ownership should reflect the diversity of our country, not defy it,” said Kerry, top Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and member of the Commerce Committee. “The FCC should be enhancing minority participation so that independent voices and community concerns are not drowned out by big conglomerates.”

In 2003 the FCC announced rule changes to allow further consolidation of the media landscape. Those changes became mired in legal battles and now the FCC will try again. In the interim period, the FCC launched an additional proceeding seeking public comment on ways to increase diversity in the communications industry. That proceeding remains open and Kerry’s amendment directs the FCC to complete this proceeding before it addresses the larger media ownership issues. The amendment was adopted unanimously.

“A fair and open information society means just that. We need to remove the barriers for minority and small firms, and we need to be sure all of our communities have equal service and access to the internet,” Kerry said.

The Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation passed the Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunity Reform Act on June 28th. It now awaits full Senate action.