Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream was started by two hippies in Burlington, Vermont. It started life as an ice cream shop operated out of an old renovated gas station; they bought their ingredients locally and sold pints out of local mom and pop shops. Today they sell ice cream across the United States and in 29 different countries. Whole Foods Market started as a small natural foods store in Austin, Texas, selling organically and locally grown food in their community. Today Whole Foods Market operates 270 stores in North America and in the United Kingdom. The success of these companies begs the question, “What the hell do Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Whole Foods Market have to do with women and minority owned media outlets?” Believe it or not there is a connection between these two; granted the connection might seem like a bit of a stretch but if you stay with me I’ll explain.
Media plays a pivotal role in our society as a shaper of opinions and influencer of public policy. It molds the relationships that nationally we have with each other and also shapes our worldviews. Traditional media outlets however, are continuing a disturbing trend of consolidation into a handful very powerful multinational media conglomerates helmed predominately by an old boys network of rich white men. According to an article at www.freepress.net, six giant conglomerates -- Disney, News Corp., NBC/GE, Time Warner, Viacom and CBS -- control the major television networks, most cable channels, and the Hollywood studios, and have huge holdings in radio, publishing, music companies and Internet properties. These media giants have be lobbying tirelessly to disassemble laws that were instituted to prevent this kind of concentration of information in the hands of just a few people.
Being left behind in the wake of all this deregulation and consolidation are women and minorities. Ownership of media outlets by these groups has seen a drastic decrease over the last few decades. According to figures from www.now.org, women own just six percent of commercial broadcast TV stations and also only six percent of all commercial broadcast radio stations in the US. People of color own only three percent of commercial broadcast TV stations and eight percent of all commercial broadcast radio stations in the US.
The lack of representation extends past ownership into inequalities in employment within media outlets. According to figures from www.womensmediacenter.com, women hold only 3 per cent of “clout” positions in the media. People of color make up only six percent of radio news directors and only five percent of radio station general managers. These troubling figures extend to almost every aspect of influential positions with different media outlets.
The proliferation of broadband in the US and in many industrialized parts of the world has created new media outlets with much lower barriers to entry. Traditional media outlets have been seeing a steady decline in audienceship as more people turn to alternative media outlets for their information and entertainment. These new media outlets are quickly gaining popularity and changing the way media is produced and consumed. There is a new crop of locally produced digital media with a worldwide audience appearing everyday and many are owned and operated by women and minorities.
Urban Latino (http://www.urbanlatino.com) is a lifestyle and cultural publication geared to bicultural Latinos. The publication is supported by a web presence that extends its reach to a global market. BlogsbyWomen.org is a directory of close to 3,000 women bloggers. These women bloggers cover topics that range from arts and entertainment to technology and everything in between. BlackWomenSpeak.com is a collection of blogs by African American women that covers topics presented from their unique experiences and points of views.
This landscape of organically grown new digital media organizations that serve a local market with a potential worldwide audience is poised for explosive growth. As this new segment of media continues to grow and redefine itself it is imperative that women and minorities take an active role in leading the growth. This digital market offers the potential to have women and minorities become entrenched in the new media that will supplant many traditional forms of media such as print magazine and newspaper. Buy organic and support your locally grown and produced media.