WASHINGTON, D.C. – ShootingStar Inc. President and CEO Diane Sutter, creator of the NAB Leadership Foundation's Broadcast Leadership Training program, testified this morning at a House Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on media marketplace diversity.
Below is her testimony as prepared for delivery:
Good morning Chairmen Pallone and Doyle, Ranking Members Walden and Latta and members of the subcommittee. My name is Diane Sutter and I am the president and CEO of ShootingStar Broadcasting. I am testifying today on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters and the thousands of local television and radio stations across your hometowns.
Broadcasters provide the important information, news and entertainment that connect and reflect the diverse communities we serve including women and communities of color. In today’s media marketplace, localism and ensuring that our programming reflects the communities we serve is not only in the public interest, but it’s good business.
My career in broadcasting started at a radio station in Pittsburgh. I rose from newsroom producer to sales, then sales manager, the first woman to hold that position in the market, station manager, and ultimately General Manager of Shamrock Broadcasting’s AM/FM combination. At that time, I was the first female General Manager in the Pittsburgh market, my hometown.
Later, I became the first female television General Manager in Lexington, Kentucky. And later, I rose to through the ranks of the corporate offices of Shamrock Television where I became President -- the first woman in that role -- and the first to be responsible for the purchasing and selling of broadcast properties as well as their overall operations.
My time as a broadcast executive taught me a lot, but it was nowhere near what I needed to know in order to navigate the challenges of buying a station, or brokering a broadcast deal on my own. It was at Shamrock, where I gained hands on experience in broadcast acquisitions and sales, including due diligence, working with the company to acquire bank financing, setting up a capital structure, making the bank presentations, and going through the FCC process and then the eventual station transaction. It was the culmination of those experiences and relationships that were essential to helping me put my first deal together. Without them, it is highly unlikely that I ever would have been become a station owner.
That is why after I acquired my first television station – a CBS affiliate in Abilene, Texas – I partnered with the NAB Leadership Foundation to create the Broadcast Leadership Training program, or BLT as we affectionately call it. I wanted to share what I had learned with other women and people of color, who I saw facing similar challenges that I had faced, and who frankly face many of those same challenges today.
BLT is a 10-month Executive-MBA style program intended to help talented senior level broadcasters who aspire to advance as group executives or station owners – particularly women and people of color – to be exposed to the fundamentals of purchasing, owning, and running a successful broadcast operation. The BLT program – supported by broadcasters for broadcasters – is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and of its 325 graduates, over 65 percent have been promoted one or more times, and 55 have been or currently are station owners.
BLT’s success stories include people like Carolyn Becker of Riverfront Broadcasting who came into the program managing two radio stations and now owns 18 small market stations. DuJuan McCoy of Circle City Broadcasting, another alum, bought his first seven broadcast stations while still in the class. He went on to sell those stations and buy new ones in larger media markets, and today owns the CW affiliate in Indianapolis.
Orlando Rosales and his partner Mayela Rojas of Media Vista Group were both BLT graduates and started with one Spanish-language Azteca television station in Fort Meyers-Naples, Florida. With the help of the BLT faculty and myself, we worked for three years to get them the financing for the three Univision stations in Florida, Minnesota and Missouri that they purchased.
These are only a few examples, but I can assure you there are many more, and as a woman who rose through the ranks of our industry to become a CEO and owner/operator, I not only share your interest in increasing diversity across all media, but consider it a cornerstone of my career. To that end, there are actions that Congress can take to help incentivize sales to new broadcast entrants.
First, Congress can promote media diversity by passing Representative Butterfield’s Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act – legislation to reinstate the tax certificate program. From 1978 to 1995, the program was highly effective in leveling the playing field for underrepresented broadcasters, increasing minority ownership in broadcast stations by more than 550 percent.
Second, Congress should examine whether modifications can be made to SBA loan guarantees, that better reflect the realities and unique challenges of financing broadcast properties.
Thank you for inviting me to testify on this important issue today. Broadcasters look forward to continuing to work with this Committee on supporting diversity at every point in the media industry pipeline, and I look forward to your questions.