Black-owned television stations in the United States are basically non-existent, especially since Roberts Broadcasting recently lost three stations in the St. Louis area. Now stations owned by Armstrong Williams are being targeted by the Federal Communications Commission, writes The Wall Street Journal. The author of the article, Juan Williams, a Fox News contributor, is no relation to Armstrong Williams. But he feels liberals at the FCC are targeting Williams because of his conservative stance.
The FCC is changing its regulations to promote diversity, but the move ironically might pull “the financial rug” from under Williams, reports WSJ.
Williams’ TV deal has always been plagued with controversy. He operates his two stations operate under what’s called a sidecar agreement with a larger broadcast company, Sinclair Broadcasting. Since Sinclair is a white-owned firm, some say Williams’ stations are not fully black-owned, but are actually owned by Sinclair. But the article says Sinclair merely uses its clout to land better advertisers for the two stations and in turn Sinclair takes a percentage of Williams’ revenues.
“This arrangement is not a token deal. Similar agreements are common in the television industry. The difference is that typically all the players are white. Nevertheless, the FCC is proposing new restrictions that would make it harder for broadcast companies to control two stations operating in the same market,” reports the WSJ.
But the FCC is worried about large broadcast companies using sales and services agreements with minority owners to get around FCC rules in place to forge broadcast ownership diversity. However, if these agreements did not exist it would be hard to have black owners because of “the realities of the current marketplace,” says Jane Mago, general counsel of the National Association of Broadcasters.
In the last decade, the number of black-owned commercial television has dropped to three from 21. Williams owns two and the third is owned by HBCU Tougaloo College.
The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters formerly opposed joint sales and services deals but has changed its position due to “the precipitous fall-off of African-American television ownership in the past few years.”
Conservatives have had their sights on the FCC recently, saying that the Commission is trying to make a presence in newsrooms, specifically with relation to a Critical Information Needs study that would look closely at how news is gathered at media outlets. The FCC cancelled the study because of the backlash from the right.
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