36th Annual Silha Lecture: The First Amendment and Diversity: A Marketplace Failure

Featuring S. Jenell Trigg, Esq., CIPP/US
S Jenell Trigg

NOTE: Due to the recent rise in Covid cases, the 2021 Lecture is being offered as an online event only.

Billions of people use social media platforms and have access to a 5000-plus-channel streaming and broadcasting universe, yet citizens are less informed than ever before. They select their preferred sources, often based on ideology and politics, but rarely seek out media options that challenge their preconceptions. Coupled with the lack of diversity in media ownership and management, it appears that the concept of a robust “marketplace of ideas” in today’s America has failed.

Can we change this? Diversity in the media by itself is not enough to elevate and reinvigorate the national conversation. But without welcoming disparate and even antagonistic voices, how can we hope to mitigate polarization and advance the core purposes of the First Amendment?

S. Jenell Trigg’s remarkable career in media and law, as well as her volunteer experience working with numerous non-profit groups, has given her unique insight into current issues regarding diversity and free speech. Following a 16-year career as a broadcast television sales/marketing executive, Ms. Trigg earned her law degree magna cum laude from The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. She then worked at the Federal Communications Commission and as Assistant Chief Counsel for Telecommunications in the Office of Advocacy, U. S. Small Business Administration, before becoming the first African- American partner at Lerman Senter PLLC in Washington, D.C., where she is  Chair of Privacy, Data Protection and Cybersecurity Practice Group, as well as Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. She has been nationally recognized for her longstanding dedication and commitment to promoting minority, women, and small business ownership and employment in the media and communications industries, receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Multicultural Media, Telecom, and Internet Council.

Ms. Trigg added the following comments to her lecture:
It is important to recognize the amazing efforts the broadcast industry is taking to improve minority and women-ownership of radio and TV stations.  As I emphasized during my lecture, the FCC is limited in the measures it can take; it needs private partnerships.  The NAB Leadership Foundation, led by the remarkable Michelle Duke, has invested in a program called the Broadcast Leadership Training (BLT) Program for twenty-two years. BLT is a 10-month executive MBA-type program that prepares senior level broadcast executives to be owners.  I am a very proud graduate of BLT (class of 2003!) and have been part of its faculty for years.   I also contribute financially to BLT.  More information is available here. https://www.nabfoundation.org/programs/broadcast-leadership/
Significantly, several of the current minority-owners of radio and TV stations are BLT graduates!  
Also, there is a joint industry effort for Congress to reinstate the tax certificate, which was the most successful tool ever to foster diversity in the broadcast industry.  The National Associaton of Black Owned Broadcasters, the National Association of Broadcasters and other members of the FCC’s new advisory committee, the Communications Equity and Diversity Council (CEDC), are very involved in this effort.  I have had the pleasure to have worked with the FCC’s various diversity committees over the past two decades.  The new CEDC was chartered this year under the leadership of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who has been very committed to diversity.  More information is available here.

For more about this event, click on any the following links:
Video of the 36th Annual Silha Lecture with S. Jenell Trigg, Esq., CIPP/US
Silha Bulletin story promoting the 36th Annual Silha Lecture with S. Jenell Trigg, Esq., CIPP/US
Flier for the 36th Annual Silha Lecture


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