By Sunita Sohrabji, Special to California Black Media

In recognition of a mass communication sector that has been struggling from dwindling advertising dollars and intense competition from well-funded media conglomerates and a field of small niche publishers since the inception of the internet, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature appropriated $10 million in new funding for ethnic media in the state budget for 2021-22.

The funding was approved as part of the Asian Pacific Islander Equity Budget created to respond to the surge in hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders. It will be used to improve outreach to Asian and Pacific Islanders as well as other underserved California communities, including African Americans and Latinos.

The money will be channeled through state agencies working with Asian, African Americans, Latino and other ethnic media outlets who have audiences of monolingual and underserved communities, according to the governor’s office.

Advocates who have been fighting in the trenches for decades to include minority-owned media in state outreach programs say the funding is historic because it earmarks funds specifically aimed at expanding communications with ethnic and racial populations through ethnic-owned media with an eye to creating more racial equity in the state. They say these outlets play a critical role in preserving the country’s democratic system by holding institutions, public and private, accountable and informing the public.

“It recognizes the indispensable role ethnic media play to inform, educate and engage our communities about critical issues that impact their lives, said Sandy Close, director of Ethnic Media Services (EMS).

“It also provides a template that can later be scaled for requiring state agencies to include the full spectrum of ethnic media — including hyper-local outlets traditionally excluded in media buys by advertising agencies — in their public awareness campaigns to our underserved communities,” she added.

Regina Wilson, executive director of California Black Media (CBM), applauded the appropriation, too, she also thanked ethnic press for always finding a way to crank out valuable and high-quality journalism even though many of them are under-resourced.

“This is an exciting news, she said.

Wilson said the murder of Minnesota resident George Floyd by a White police officer, Derek Chauvin, who has been sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison, alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, has served as an inflection point for communities of color. “It has made us look at our humanity. We are neighbors who must stand up for one another.”

Wilson said the funding is a good start, but more work needs to be done and is concerned that the two longest serving ethnic media advocacy groups in the state, EMS and CBM, were not included in the discussions that led to the allocation.

Close and Wilson say CBM and EMS will be convening a briefing with government and ethnic media leaders to make sure the funds truly benefit the full spectrum of minority-owned media in the state.