Black Television Station Owners Look For A Seat At The Table

A seat at the table — a fitting title as we’re headed into the Thanksgiving Holiday.  So we’re clear, we’re not talking about a literal seat at the table. The term simply put is a desire to be part of a group–having an influence or power in a particular situation.

black and white board boardroom business
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I read and researched this week’s blog assignment it seemed like a perfect title. Our assignment—-read the case study titled “Blacks Own Just Ten U.S. Stations– Here’s Why” . The study takes a look at the lack of minority ownership in television stations and what’s contributing to that.

When you think about black owned television stations there are two that instantly come to mind for most, OWN and BET—but neither are solely black owned. BET was sold to Viacom in 2001. OWN is the Oprah Winfrey Network started by the daytime queen herself, but she wasn’t alone in this venture. As of 2017, Discovery Communications is the largest stakeholder in that company.

When we start looking into black owned networks there are only a handful. Those include TV One, Revolt, and Aspire — which by the way is owned by NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

I find it hard to believe with endless cable channels there are not more options, and here’s where the case study comes in. The lack of minority ownership took center stage in the 1970’s. In response to the issue the FCC passed a policy that gave television station owners kind of like a tax credit for selling their stations to minorities. A good plan until it was stopped in 1995.

So here we are more than two decades later with even less minorities owning television stations — but why? Some of those smaller earlier stations were gobbled up by bigger companies. The term discrimination is also being used to describe part of the problem. In 2015, two cable giants were sued. The companies were accused of discriminating against black owned television stations. The complaint said the companies only set aside a small number of spots for minority owned networks, therefore keeping a lot of them from having a real shot of getting picked up. That $20M case was eventually thrown out. Another issue the case study points out is the FCC’s lack of coming up with any policies that give minority owners a fair chance of getting their stations picked up. Right now, it’s up to cable companies that are not run by minorities to decide what stations they want to carry. It’s power that’s left a lot of minority station owners isolated.

I don’t know how to solve this problem, but I do know something needs to be done soon. It is so incredibly important that we make way so that everyone has a voice. It’s incredibly important that minorities find other relatable people like themselves or like their families when they turn on the TV. ABC is certainly trying with shows like Blackish and Fresh Off the Boat. FOX is also trying with shows like Empire and Star. Yet those are only four of maybe a dozen shows geared towards minorities. It’s also not just about comedy or dramas either, there are a lot of issues that impact minority communities that could be better spotlighted if given a platform through our local cable providers. Stories about minorities told by minorities.

Now, I end this post with hope that change is coming. The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters is working to make sure minority voices are heard on radio and television. Hopefully soon, everyone will get their seat at the table.

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