Barack Obama - Diversity Czar - Mark Lloyd
On August 4, 2009, Mark Lloyd was appointed to be Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. His past involvement in radio and TV and his previously stated positions on the government's role in media lead to designation of his position as the "Diversity Czar."
Mark Lloyds appointment is controversial because of a number of comments he has made in the past concerning race and socialism. His comments are especially troubling given that he is being appointed to an office that gives him regulatory power over diversity in the broadcast market, when he has shown a marked desire to use that same authority to silence dissenting views on talk radio. He has also shown admiration for the use of media manipulation in silencing dissent for the Venezuelan takeover by Hugo Chavez.
In particular, Mark Lloyds appointment is controversial because:
- He has stated that he people should be judged fit to hold positions based on race and gender
- He has shown a pattern of propaganda using debunked methodology to establish a unproven basis for limiting the time and reach of opposing views
- He has authored books and documents which seek to place a fee on opposing views which would then be used to supports views supported of his ideology. He calls this diversity.
- He has voiced support for the socialist revolution in Venezuela and for the manipulation of media there
- He has blamed the media for discussing dissenting views about global warming and allowing an opposing view to be a legitimate idea. He states that this inclusion of opposing ideas represents an inability to have a sustained intelligent conversation
Comments on Race
Much of the controversy surrounding Mark Lloyd are his views on race and fairness in the media. In an undated set of audio, Mark Lloyd can be heard saying that he believes that to be fair, a larger number of people of color, women, and gays must be included in positions of leadership. He then states that some white people will have to be designated to step aside so that people of color can now have power.
There's nothing more difficult than this, because we have really, truly good white people in important positions. And the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of those positions, and unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions, we will not change the problem.
We're in a position, where you have to say "Who is going to step down so that someone else can have power."
The Structural Imbalance of Talk Radio
The Fairness Doctrine is that name given to a set of laws which used to dictate that radio broadcasters must donate equal time to opposing views on the radio. In 1987, the FCC decided to stop enforcing these rules and a wave of national conservative talk radio swept the nation. For years, liberal politicians and voices have tried to begin reinforcing those rules. Initially, popular outrage stopped the enforcement of the fairness doctrine as conservatives noted that a vast array of opinion was available online and that the rule would not be enforced on television or in print. The rule applied only to the sole market which conservatives held the majority - talk radio.
In recent years, liberal activists have begun to claim that they do not seek an equalization of political views on the radio, but rather a return to local programming with a more diverse ownership of women and minorities which they claim would provide a more representative view of the public's desire for programming.
Mark Lloyd is one of those liberals who seeks to end conservative radio's dominance. In an undated audio, he can be heard stating that the fairness doctrine itself is simply not enough, and that something with "more teeth" will be needed.
Q: Are you ... Is the Center for American Progress saying that the fairness doctrine isn't necessary or that it isn't important?
Lloyd: What we're really saying is that the fairness doctrine is not enough, and that having a sort of overarching rule that says broadcasters ought to be fair, ought to provide issues important to communities and that they ought to do it in a fair and balanced way is simply not enough. Unless you put some teeth into that, unless you put some hard structural rules into place that are going to result in fairness.
Despite audio indicating his desire, Mr. Lloyd has consistently denied that he seeks to reinstate the fairness doctrine. He states that he seeks to return control of the radio waves to the local people, and specifically to people or color and women. In a document that he co-wrote titled "The Structural Imbalance of Talk Radio," Mr. Lloyd notes that over 90 percent of talk radio on the top 5 broadcasters is conservative in nature. He notes that in some markets, these providers give no liberal option for listeners, although he notes that this is more balanced in traditionally liberal areas such as New York and Chicago.
The paper breaks down into three parts: proving that conservative radio dominates most markets, addressing the causes for this dominance, and offering solutions. The authors of the paper claim that their goal is to establish a marketplace that is representative of the desires of the consumers, and that the current radio marketplace does not do this. They offer two reasons for this situation. The first reason is that people desire more conservative talk; this reason is addressed later. The second reason is that people are not given liberal options because larger companies have bought up much of the market place and play national shows such as Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. The document states the reason for such monolithic programming as follows:
Our view is that the imbalance in talk radio programming today is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast regulation resulting from pro-forma licensing policies, longer license terms (to eight years from three years previously), the elimination of clear public interest requirements such as local public affairs programming, and the relaxation of ownership rules, including the requirement of local participation in management.
The document then offers solutions to this problem:
- Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations
- National radio ownership by any one entity should not exceed 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM broadcast stations.
- In terms of local ownership, no one entity should control more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market, or specifically, more than:
- Four commercial stations in large markets (a radio market with 45 or more commercial radio stations).
- Three stations in mid-markets (between 30 and 44 total commercial radio stations).
- Two stations in smaller markets (between 15 and 29 total commercial radio stations).
- One station in the smallest markets (14 or fewer total commercial radio stations).
- Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing
- Reduce the term of the FCC license from 8 years to 3 years
- Require radio broadcast licensees to regularly show that they are operating on behalf of the public interest and provide public documentation and viewing of how they are meeting these obligations.
- Demand that the radio broadcast licensee announce when its license is about to expire and demonstrate how the public can participate in the process to determine whether the license should be extended.
- In addition, the FCC should be required to maintain a website to conduct on-line discussions and facilitate interaction with the public about licensee conduct.
- A fee for companies that do not comply
- This document suggests a fee of one to five percent
The document itself is controversial in that it is one of two things:
- a deliberate intent to mischaracterize the realities of talk radio to convince the public that a problem which does not exist needs a solution which obviously and purposefully benefits one political party
- a gross miscarriage of research and mathematical procedure
Neither of these things is representative of someone whose job purpose is the regulation of a market which he has shown either a marked desire to unfairly regulate or a gross inability to understand.
As previously stated. the paper gives two possible reasons for the lack of diversity in talk radio - the market desires conservative talk radio, and the broadcasters simply choose to air only conservative radio because regulation has not stopped them from doing so. This second conclusion, which is the one supported by the document, is the strongest evidence that the author is either willfully ignorant or purposely misleading as no arguments are attempted to show that the broadcasters benefit from doing such a thing. That is to say that the paper claims that conservative radio dominates the airwaves because broadcasters have a marked incentive to disregard the local populations and broadcast content which is not desired, yet it gives no indication of what that incentive could be. It claims that large markets exist for liberal content and yet gives no reasons as to why those desires are not being met except a passing hint at a large cabal of radio station owners who all desire a conservative viewpoint.
Furthermore, in dismissing the argument that the market is fulfilling the desires of the audience, the authors stated the following:
This text notes two things:
- there are markets with only one liberal show being played against numerous conservative shows
- the desire for more liberal talk radio exists because the demographics of the nation and of given areas contain a higher number of people who define themselves as liberal or moderate than listen to liberal radio
The underlying assumption is that people listen to viewpoints that they are more likely to agree with and that the viewpoints of a demographic can therefore be used to judge the likely listenership of a given talk show orientation. However, for this statement to be true, the single liberal talk show would have a listenership equal to or near the liberal population (plus some moderate) of the area while the conservative shows split the remaining conservative viewpoints and some of the moderate viewers. The article makes no indication that this is true. In fact, if it were true, it would be the sole point necessary to achieve the goals stated as advertisers would look for more liberal shows to compete.
This same argument is also self defeating to the purpose of the paper. The paper claims that its authors have the desire to bring about a more diverse radio environment, and that they are showing the need for government intervention to create such an environment. However, one of the central pillars for justifying the need for such diversity is that people will listen to shows that air views which they are already sympathetic to hearing. In other words, the paper gives methods of achieving more diversity of view but then states this goal is not achievable as people will listen to shows to which they already agree.
Finally, the document overlooks the most simple explanation: that the conservative shows themselves are superior to the liberal ones and people listen to these shows due to something other than the political tilt of the host. This reason could be the format, the research ability of the show, or its focus on a geographic or specific area of politics.
Prologue to a Farce
In 2006, Mark Lloyd wrote a book titled Prologue to a Farce: Communications and Democracy in America. In this book, he used some of the same reasoning which was used in The Structural Imbalance of Talk Radio to show the need for government intervention into the marketplace of talk radio. He goes to suggest that a fine is needed as in the previous paper. However, this fine would exercise a 100% fee on the operational costs of radio stations and the fee would then be used to pay for public access radio stations.
Media Reform and Social Change
In a 2008 forum titled "Media Reform and Social Change," Mark Lloyd spoke in glowing terms of the revolution in Venezuela and of Hugo Chavez's change (1:00 into video 2).
In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez really had an incredible revolution, a democratic revolution there to begin to put in place things that were going to have an impact on the people of Venezuela. The property owners and the people who were then controlling the media in Venezuela rebelled, worked , frankly with folks here in the US government, worked to oust him, but he came back with another revolution and Venezuelans began to take very seriously the media in this country. And we've had complaints about this ever since.
Later in the speech, Mr. Lloyd states that there has never been a debate about glowing warming amongst scientists and that the media was what led to those who do not believe in global warming.
I think that the number 1 problem in our country is that we cannot have an intelligent dialogue. On of the things that (unable to hear) sort of pointed out or moved beyond was that the majority of scientists, the vast majority of scientists, when you look at peer reviewed articles understand that there really was no debate about global warming and the fact that human beings are by and large the cause of it. But when you look at the media coverage, there was a debate. The problem wasn't in Congress, the problem was in the media. We cannot have an intelligent, sustained conversation in this country.
 Website: CNS News Article: FCC’s Chief Diversity Officer Wants Private Broadcasters to Pay a Sum Equal to Their Total Operating Author: Matt Cover Accessed on: 09/21/2010
 Website: Center for American Progress Article: The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio Author: Center for American Progress; Free Press; Accessed on: 09/21/2010