By Joseph Torres and S. Derek Turner (New America Media) – We just experienced a shameful milestone in the history of U.S. media — and barely anyone noticed.
There are now zero black-owned and operated full-power TV stations in our country.
This sorry state of affairs is the culmination of a trend that started in the late 1990s when Congress and the Federal Communications Commission allowed massive consolidation in the broadcasting industry. This policy shift crowded out existing owners of color and ensured that it would be nearly impossible for new owners to access the public airwaves. Recent FCC actions (and in some cases, inaction) have only hastened this decline in opportunities for diverse broadcasters.
From Little … to Nothing
When Free Press released its first report on the state of TV ownership in 2006, we found that there were only 18 African American-owned and operated full-power commercial TV stations — representing just 1.3 percent of all such stations.
By December 2012, those 18 had shrunk to just five. And now they’re all gone.
Roberts Broadcasting, a black-owned media company, just announced a deal to sell its three remaining full-power TV stations to ION Media Networks for nearly $8 million.
Once considered a phenomenal success story in an industry known for its stunning lack of diversity, Roberts Broadcasting was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2011.
This decline stemmed primarily from Viacom’s decision to shutter the UPN network, which Roberts had affiliated with due to UPN’s unique focus on programming featuring ordinary portrayals of African Americans.
Roberts Broadcasting’s exit from the market comes on the heels of the departures of two other prominent black owners.
In late October, the Sinclair Broadcast Group continued its buying spree by acquiring a Fox affiliate in Portland, Me., from a company helmed by Charles Glover, a funk musician turned broadcaster. That same month, Access.1 Communications agreed to sell its Atlantic City NBC station to Locus Point Networks.
New Jersey residents are up in arms about the deal: Locus Point is expected to close the station and give up its license as the FCC takes broadcast stations off the air and auctions those airwaves to cellphone companies.
It’s hard to fathom the sorry state of broadcast ownership during the administration of our nation’s first black president. After all, during his first presidential campaign, President Obama pledged to “encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media.”
But that hasn’t happened.