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Radio, Magazine Advertising Contributes To Racial Inequality, Researchers Say

Radio, Magazine Advertising Contributes To Racial Inequality, Researchers SayUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
Radio and magazine advertising has helped promote racial and ethnic inequality in the United States by limiting minority visibility, exploiting minority consumers and perpetuating stereotypes in the ads themselves, according to two Penn State researchers.“Advertisers regularly discriminate against minority-owned stations and stations with large African American or Latino audiences, either excluding them altogether or paying them less,” says Dr. Ronald V. Bettig, associate professor of communications.Bettig and Dr. Jeanne Lynn Hall, associate professor of communications, are co-authors of the book, Big Media, Big Money: Cultural Texts and Political Economics, published by Rowman & Littlefield.In the book, the authors cite a civil rights forum on communication policy study conducted in the late 1990s, analyzing data from 3,745 radio stations. The study showed that 91 percent of minority broadcasters reported that they had been subject at various times to “no urban dictates,” a policy by which advertisers avoid stations that cater to racial and ethnic minorities, according to Hall.In addition to “urban dictates,” advertisers use a tactic called “minority discounts,” by which they pay minority-formatted radio stations less than other stations with a similar audience size. “Survey respondents estimated that 61 percent of the ads purchased on their stations had been discounted on average of 59 percent to advertisers,” Bettig notes.“The dictates and discounts were attributed to a variety of factors, including advertisers’ assessments of listener income and spending patterns, and racial and ethnic stereotypes that influence the media buying process,” Hall says.In another example, the magazine industry also tends to marginalize its readership, the researchers add.“Cigarette advertising in most magazines surged in the 1970s when tobacco companies withdrew from radio and television in compliance with FCC-mandated Fairness Doctrine messages to the American Cancer Society and other health organizations,” Bettig notes.By the early 1990s, cigarette companies were shifting their focus away from the educated, affluent readership favored by many magazines and toward low-income women and minorities. While this trend may have boosted advertising revenues for some minority magazines, it was clearly not in the best interests of their readers’ health.“Advertisers who once shunned minority audiences have proven themselves all too willing to exploit them,” Hall says.   
—  Associated Press

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