In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders — better known as the Kerner Commission — released a landmark report examining what had caused a series of violent uprisings in cities across the country. The report warned that the United States was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.”
Among other racial problems, the report cited the mass media’s coverage of the uprisings and its treatment of Black people in general. News outlets had failed to convey to their main audience of white people the underlying causes of the riots, such as rampant poverty and inequality, and Black people did not see themselves accurately represented in the media. The report called on the media to expand coverage of the Black community, integrate the activities and civic concerns of Black people into everyday news coverage and bring more Black journalists into the field.
For outgoing Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Mignon Clyburn, the Kerner report is a historical milestone. Since then, Black and Latinx activists have challenged local broadcasters for failing to serve their communities and worked to create media that center their stories, but US media have also experienced rampant corporate consolidation and the rise of right-wing outlets like Fox News.
“The sad part of it is, there are only a few conclusions in that report that are not applicable to today,” Clyburn told a panel of leaders from media and digital rights groups focused on people of color during a discussion on Tuesday.
Clyburn’s acknowledgment that there is much more work to be done comes as the commissioner prepares to leave the FCC, where she has served for eight years, including a stint as the commission’s first Black chairwoman in 2013….