9:00pm July 20, 2011

Communications Change — But Not the Need for Diversity in the Industry

MMTC’s 25th Anniversary and Ninth Annual Access to Capital and Telecommunications Policy Conference — July 21-22, 2011

Twenty-five years ago, a small number of activists grew concerned that minority Americans were playing too small a role in guiding and shaping a very important industry — media and telecommunications.

From that concern came the establishment of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, now recognized as the nation’s leading advocate for minority advancement in communications.

After more than two decades of work to promote and preserve equal opportunity and civil rights in mass media and telecommunications, there have been many victories and a few defeats. Through it all, the need for advocacy, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, but always determined, remains unchanged.

What has really changed in the last 25 years is the media. Radio remains strong, television has expanded to hundreds of cable and satellite channels, print has gone to the Web, and the Web has gone … everywhere.

We have access to all these media through a small device we carry around in a purse or pocket — the ubiquitous smartphone. When MMTC was founded, in 1986, a cellphone fit in a briefcase, not in your pants pocket, and to use it to access the New York Times was, well, inconceivable.

Today, all media are available on the Web, even books and magazines. That’s why ensuring that all Americans have access to the Internet — through broadband or through wireless — is a prominent part of MMTC’s activities.

The full scope of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and its work for minority advancement in communications will be on display this week at MMTC’s 25th Anniversary and Ninth Annual Access to Capital and Telecommunications Policy Conference.

The conference, this Thursday and Friday at the Westin Georgetown Hotel in Washington, will focus on access to capital and telecommunications policy.

Access to capital is crucial to the success of minority entrepreneurs, and telecommunications policies can open doors for minority participation in American media — or close doors, if those policies are written without care and foresight. Providing access to needed capital and ensuring telecommunications policies provide for equal opportunities remain central to MMTC’s mission and to this year’s conference.

The conference brings in leaders from broadcast and wireless industries to interact in discussions with members of Congress, members of the White House staff, members of the Federal Communications Commission, and others.

Throughout the two days, conference participants will examine the challenges facing minority entrepreneurs, will explore the role of incubators and accelerators, and will hear from those who have crafted stories of success.

Speakers include Henry M. Rivera, partner in Wiley Rein LLP; U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush; Leo Hindery, chairman and CEO of InterMedia Partners; James W. Cicconi, senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs for AT&T; Bret Perkins, vice president for external and governmental affairs at Comcast; Tom Tauke, executive vice president for public affairs, policy and communications for Verizon; Robert McDowell, member of the Federal Communications Commission; the Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition;  Aneesh Chopra, White House chief technology officer; Anna Gomez, deputy assistant secretary for communications and information at the Department of Commerce; Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League; Lewis W. Dickey, chairman, president, and CEO of Cumulus Media; Edward Lazarus, chief of staff for the FCC; Joseph Waz, retired senior vice president of Comcast; and many others.

These industry leaders, power brokers, and drivers of telecommunications policies share MMTC’s understanding that today’s breathtaking changes in communications create both opportunities and challenges for minority entrepreneurs. This week, they will come together with the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council to explore ways in which these new technologies and new forms of media partnerships can enhance diversity in the 21st century.

David Honig is president and executive director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, which he co-founded in 1986. MMTC has represented over 80 minority, civil rights and religious national organizations in selected proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission and it operates the nation’s only full service, minority-owned media and telecom brokerage. Since 1983, Honig has also been engaged in the private practice of communications and civil rights law.

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