Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Setback for Black TV-Station Ownership

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Returning December 30

St. Louis Brothers to Give Up Stations in Three Cities

Mara Schiavocampo Says Goodbye to NBC News

Richard Prince's Book Notes™: Stocking Stuffers (Part 2): 

Simeon Booker with Carol McCabe Booker

Stanley Crouch

Wil Haygood

Pilar Marrero

Steve Penn

Alison Stewart


Celia Viggo Wexler

Commentator Armstrong Williams, center, is flanked by lawyer Greg Skall and Davi

St. Louis Brothers to Give Up Stations in Three Cities

"We just experienced a shameful milestone in the history of U.S. media — and barely anyone noticed," according to Joseph Torres and S. Derek Turner of the media advocacy group Free Press.

"There are now zero black-owned and operated full-power TV stations in our country" — unless you count noncommercial stations and the recent purchase of two television stations by commentator and entrepreneur Armstrong Williams. Free Press does not count them. Williams, who bought the stations from Sinclair Broadcasting, the nation's largest television-station owner, does.

 Michael Roberts, left, and Steve Roberts in front of a former St. Louis middle-sch

Either way, the troubles of black-owned Roberts Broadcasting of St. Louis represent a setback for minority broadcast ownership.

"For nearly four decades, Michael and Steven Roberts have been big names in this city," Tim Logan and Lisa Brown wrote last year for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "They rose from the Penrose neighborhood of north St. Louis to become two of the nation's wealthiest African-American businessmen, with a net worth typically described in nine digits. They have hobnobbed with Bill Clinton, counseled Cabinet members, and casually mention that they know Magic Johnson well. . . ."

The Roberts brothers own real estate and hotel businesses in St. Louis and in other states.

However, their broadcast properties are being sacrificed to settle debts, with implications for the already-low national figures for African American television-station ownership.

The broadcast operations filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in St. Louis on Oct. 7, 2011, Lisa Brown wrote then for the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Angela Mueller reported last week for the St. Louis Business Journal, "In a hearing Wednesday morning, Judge Barry Schermer of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Missouri indicated the court would confirm, subject to certain amendments, a plan proposed by ION Media Networks, which is a creditor in the case, and the unsecured creditors committee.

"Under the plan, the three remaining Roberts Broadcasting TV stations — located in St. Louis, Evansville, Ind., and Columbia, S.C., would be placed in a trust, with ION as the beneficiary of the trust. . . ."

Discussing the national implications Friday, Torres and Turner wrote for Free Press, "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."

Their issue is wrapped up in the broader one of media consolidation.

Williams reported last month that he had won approval from the Federal Communications Commission to buy WEYI-TV, an NBC affiliate in the Flint/Saginaw/Bay City/Midland, Mich., market, and WWMB-TV, a CW affiliate in the Myrtle Beach/Florence, S.C., market, near Williams' hometown of Marion, S.C.

The stations were acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., and turned over to Williams, who said he secured a loan of more than $50 million.

Turner, research director for Free Press, told Journal-isms by telephone that FCC records show that the stations are actually owned and operated by Sinclair.

But Williams told Journal-isms by telephone, "Last time I checked, I was the owner and manager," assuming control on Nov. 28. Denying that fact "is the new racism."

This is where media consolidation enters the picture. Free Press opposes arrangements called "sidecars," a name for companies that outsource station management as a way around FCC rules that prohibit owning more than one TV station in a market. Free Press says the Williams arrangement is a "sidecar."

Williams' lawyer, Colby May, told Journal-isms by telephone that media advocacy group has filed petitions challenging Williams' ability to acquire the Charleston station. That appears to be part of a strategy. On Oct. 20, Keach Hagey reported for the Wall Street Journal, "Anticonsolidation groups and cable operators have petitioned the FCC to block acquisition plans that include operating nonowned stations. And the Government Accountability Office has begun to study competitive effects of these agreements. . . ."

May called Free Press hypocritical portraying itself as advocating for more diversity while trying to block Williams' acquisition of the stations.

African American ownership dropped from 12 stations in 2009 to 10 in 2011, or less than 1 percent of the nation's 1,348 full-power television stations, the FCC said in November 2012.

Mara Schiavocampo Says Goodbye to NBC News

Mara Schiavocampo "NBC News correspondent Mara Schiavocampo is leaving NBC News and, TVNewser hears, she will likely join ABC News in the New Year," Chris Ariens reported Friday for TVNewser. "This morning she Tweeted:

"Walking out of these doors for the last time. It's very bittersweet. But I’ll have some exciting news…

"— Mara Schiavocampo (@maracamp) December 20, 2013

"Schiavocampo has been with NBC since 2007, when she was named a digital correspondent for 'NBC Nightly News.' In 2010 she was named anchor of 'Early Today' and MSNBC’'s 'First Look' while continuing to report for 'Nightly News. ' "

Schiavocampo was the National Association of Black Journalists' "Emerging Journalist of the Year" in 2007. Shortly afterward, she was hired as a digital journalist for "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams."

According to her NBC bio, Schiavocampo "is a correspondent for NBC News, filing reports for all platforms, including Nightly News, The TODAY Show, msnbc and A pioneer of new media journalism, Mara is the first reporter of her kind in network television, traveling the world producing, shooting, reporting and editing video pieces, blogging and shooting still photos. . . ."

In other personnel moves:

Soothing the Senses, Shocking the Conscience

December 20, 2013

Simeon Booker with Carol McCabe Booker

Stanley Crouch

Wil Haygood

Pilar Marrero

Steve Penn

Alison Stewart


Celia Viggo Wexler

Richard Prince's Book Notes™: Stocking Stuffers (Part 2)

Still looking for the right holiday gift for readers on your list? If they're good at what they do, journalists know the craft of writing, they keep readers engaged and their facts are unimpeachable.

Below are eight additional nonfiction books by or about journalists of color published in the last year. They continue a list begun in this space on Nov. 27. Included are a story 30 years in the making about one of America's jazz legends, a memoir from an icon of the black press and the saga of a Washington, D.C., school that produced the greatest generations of African Americans.

Simeon Booker with Carol McCabe Booker

Simeon Booker and his wife, Carol McCabe Booker, have written "Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter's Account of the Civil Rights Movement (University Press of Mississippi, $30 hardcover).

For good reason, this book has been quoted in "Journal-isms" at various times over the year in recalling coverage of the civil rights movement. Booker covered so much of the era that his memoir deserves to be in the library of anyone interested in the struggle.

A movement is afoot to award Booker the Presidential Medal of Freedom or the Congressional Gold Medal.

"The 94-year-old African-American magazine and newspaper reporter has been giving Blacks news through the lens of their own eyes for more than 65 years," William Reed, columnist for the black press, wrote in March, before Booker's most recent birthday.

Reed also wrote of Booker, "He is steeped in race and Black culture. He became interested in journalism through a family friend, Carl Murphy, the owner and operator of Baltimore's Afro American Newspapers. In 1942, after receiving his bachelor's degree in English from Richmond's Virginia Union University, Booker accepted a position as a reporter with the Afro American newspapers. By 1945, he worked for the Black Cleveland Call and Post newspaper, where he won Newspaper Guild and Wendell L. Willkie awards. Then, Booker received a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University to study journalism where he developed his reportorial talents. In 1951, Booker became The Washington Post's first full-time Black reporter.

"Not to be confused with contemporary journalists who 'just happen to be Black,' Booker has a long history of engagement in civil rights. His book, 'Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter's Account of the Civil Rights Movement,' is legend. . . ."

Stanley Crouch

Stanley Crouch, longtime jazz writer and columnist for the Daily News in New York, has written "Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker" (HarperCollins, $27.99 hardcover; $14.99 ebook)

The opening lines of this book are, "In West Africa, a man dances atop stilts rising more than nine feet in the air. His bold turns, leaps, and spins suggest the power of human beings to master the subtle-to-savage disruptions of rhythm and event that define experience."

More than any book on this list, "Kansas City Lightning" draws attention to its writing, and reviewers have noticed. Dwight Garner wrote in the New York Times: The book is 'Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker,' and it isn't yet available as a recording. (Audible, please.) It's going to require a charismatic speaker, a Samuel L. Jackson or a James Earl Jones or Mr. Crouch himself.

"'Kansas City Lightning' is all about polyrhythmic cadences and percussive thumps. It's a book about a jazz hero written in a heroic style; it's a tall tale, a bebop Beowulf. You’ve got to be in the mood.

"Mr. Crouch's sentences frequently trace a biblical arc. 'They had seen the high and mighty get low-down and dirty, the low-down and dirty get high and mighty,' he declaims about Kansas City jazzmen in the 1920s and '30s. 'They learned a great deal about what music did to women.'

"More often he doles out vernacular pops of phrasing, of the sort now sometimes called Dan Ratherisms. Parker and his future first wife, newly in love, 'stared at each other with the amazement of two moo cows watching choo-choo trains.' Chicago traffic 'was thick as freckles on the face of a redheaded cracker."

Some view this as overwriting, but in Britain's Guardian newspaper, Richard Williams noted another distinction: "This is the first full-length study to view the life of Parker, a uniquely significant musician, from a black perspective."

Crouch wrote this book on and off for 30 years. He collected so much material that it could not all fit in one volume. "By the time Crouch gets Charlie Parker to New York and his first recordings . . . It is only 1942, and Parker has just begun to invent the music of his legacy," David Hajdu wrote this month in the New York Times Magazine.

Wil Haygood

Wil Haygood, a reporter for the Washington Post, has written "The Butler: A Witness to History" (Atria Books, $18, hardcover; audio download, $9.95; $10.99 ebook)

At a book party for Haygood in October, Pamela Oas Williams, lead producer of the film "Lee Daniels' The Butler," said her film "is the only movie of 2013 to be No. 1 three weeks in a row at the box office and has grossed $120 million. That's a $90 million profit."

The movie, of course, was based on Haygood's Washington Post story about Eugene Allen, who worked for eight presidents in his 34 years at the White House. Haygood's 96-page volume serves as a souvenir for those who enjoyed the movie, and it became one of the few books by a black journalist to make the best-seller list this year. "The Butler" includes Haygood's story about finding Allen, as well as an essay on black images in Hollywood and 57 photos.

In the audio version, Haygood's story is read by the film's stars, David Oyelowo, Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey."

Asked in September whether there was a lesson for black journalists from his success, Haygood told Journal-isms by email, "not to shy away from our history, no matter how painful. There are still folks who have a difficult time dealing with the term BUTLER."

Pilar Marrero

Pilar Marrero, senior political writer for Los Angeles-based La Opinión, the nation's largest Spanish-language daily, has written "Killing the American Dream: How Anti- Immigration Extremists are Destroying the Nation," (Palgrave Macmillan, $27 hardcover; $12.99 ebook)

Marrero, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Venezuela in 1986, leaves no doubt where she stands.

The book jacket states, "By exploring the evolution of the modern immigration debates, Killing the American Dream reveals how hate groups have capitalized on the growing divide between political parties to exploit the fears of Americans in a malicious campaign to rid the nation of any foreign elements. . . . Not only do these policies hurt the thousands of immigrants who come to the United States for a better life, but they deprive the nation of an educated, skilled work force whose contributions would greatly improve the devastated economy and dwindling social service funds."

Predictably, not everyone will agree.

John F. Rohe, who wrote a biography of the founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls "the most important organization fueling the backlash against immigration," wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, " 'Killing the American Dream' capably lays out the claims of open border advocates. If, however, you seek substantive information on ethical criteria in formulating a long-range, sustainable immigration policy, you may have to keep looking beyond the four corners of this book."

In a more detailed critique, Kelly Thompson of the Webber Law Firm Policy Group wrote for, "As a journalist, Marrero has written articles — snapshots on a particular theme or view — without necessarily feeling beholden to achieving consistency in the details that make up the whole image. I see this book as a 1,000 piece puzzle. Most of the pieces are there and I get the bigger picture, but I fear that the missing pieces are important, so my mind's eye cannot be set at ease.

"Marrero’s book does deserve a place in the discussion of immigration. In true journalistic fashion she attacks lies, exposes conspiracy and controversy, and serves as a counter-balance to the sensationalized, under-researched, sound-bite happy voices found in the restrictionist camp. She fights back with both passion and data, but at times is guilty of some of the same missteps she finds in her accused. . . ."

The publisher says there are no plans for a paperback edition.

Steve Penn

Steve Penn, former columnist at the Kansas City Star, has written "Case for a Pardon: The Pete O'Neal Story" (Pennbooks, $24.95 paperback).

Penn, fired from the Star two years ago for running unaltered or barely altered press releases in his column, turned his attention to writing about Felix Lindsey "Pete" O'Neal.

O'Neil, now 73, led the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther Party from 1969 until his arrest in 1970 for transporting a shotgun across state lines. While out on bail, O'Neal fled to Sweden, then Algeria and eventually Tanzania.

Penn's self-published book could benefit from better editing, but he bolsters his case with a foreword from Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., who writes that O'Neal's "courage helped to create the America we know today." Cleaver appeared with Penn in appearances promoting the book.

Penn writes, "O'Neal has long served out his punishment. He has been in a type of isolation, in a sort of cage unable to see his mother, attend his father's funeral, unable to enjoy the city he was born in. Now his only hope of return may be in the form of a presidential pardon. And that's a tall request indeed. It's the ultimate long shot. It may or may not ever happen. What is clear is that without a full explanation of his life, each section examined and reexamined, it probably will never happen. This is that autopsy."

Alison Stewart

Alison Stewart has written "First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School," (Chicago Review Press, $26.95 hardcover; $21.99 ebook).

"After zig zagging from MTV to CBS to ABC to MSNBC to PBS, Stewart's latest incarnation is as author," Gail Shister wrote in August for MediaBistro. " 'First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School,' her inaugural book, was released earlier this month. Both her parents graduated from the Washington, D.C. school. 

"Stewart began working on 'Dunbar' in 2006, while at MSNBC. Five years later, she left her job as cohost of PBS’s 'Need to Know' to focus fulltime on the book, and to care for her ailing parents. They later died.

" 'I always wanted to write a book,' says Stewart, 47, a Brown alum. 'I had been offered a "Hey, I was at MTV, then at the networks, what did I see?" deal, and maybe I'll write that book someday, but I wanted to dig into something that would have some kind of lasting value beyond being entertaining.'

"Stewart found herself in a race against time, since many of the early Dunbar grads were in their 80s and 90s. She recorded their memories of the legendary school, which in its prime produced the first black member of a presidential Cabinet, the first black general of the U.S. Army and the first black federal judge.

" 'I loved talking to people, going into their homes, spending hours with them,' says Stewart, who often traveled by bus from New York and crashed on friends' couches to minimize expenses. 'The research was my favorite part. You discover things. It’s a little bit art, a little bit archeology.' "

Stewart writes in the book, "The story of Dunbar shows what can happen in spite of huge legal, societal, and professional hurdles. It shows what is possible when a group of people focus and band together to make something better. Dunbar shows what happens when a stable middle class exists. And Dunbar shows us that politics pollutes education. And through all this, Dunbar helped create the greatest generations of African Americans."


Touré, author, cultural critic and MSNBC co-host, has written "I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon" (Atria Books, $19.99 hardcover; $10.99 ebook).

"This extended essay — based on a series of lectures that Touré delivered last year at Harvard — argues that Prince tapped into the zeitgeist of the late 1970s and ’80s, when such albums as 'Controversy' and '1999' provided the soundtrack to so many coming-of-age stories," Jen Chaney wrote in the Washington Post.

"Though Prince is a baby boomer — born in 1958, roughly a decade before Xers arrived on Earth — he has lived a life, the author argues, 'that uniquely prepared him to understand the gen X experience.'

"According to the book, that experience was defined by several factors: an increase in the divorce rate, a phenomenon that, as the child of a ruptured marriage, Prince subtly alludes to in his music; apathy toward solving socio-political problems (Touré cites the song '1999' as a prime example of apocalyptic indifference); and heightened sexual awareness, which is conveyed in, well, pretty much every Prince song ever.

"If this all sounds a bit too academic to be enjoyable, that’s not the case. Touré, co-host of the MSNBC program 'The Cycle,' is an engaging and smart writer, one who makes his arguments with plenty of backup via fascinating interviews with Prince’s colleagues, friends, notable proteges (Questlove, drummer for the Roots and self-proclaimed Prince scholar, makes several appearances) as well as the book’s subject himself."

Dave Bry, writing in the New Republic, dissented, writing, "The project would better serve as an article in an academic journal or a short lecture."

But David Chiu of CBS News said the book "serves as both a reaffirmation of Prince's greatness and a look at the aspects of his life that perhaps people don't know about. 'I think he goes into more proper context when you understand the depth of the religious conversation in his music," said Toure, 'and not just this sort of sexual being. His devotion to Jesus Christ is really clear through his music. The religious discussion is far more specific than even the sexual conversation. And you notice that religion sometimes creeps into the sexual songs like 'Adore,' never the other way around. The religious songs have this sanctimonious place to him. The religion is part of the sex to him.' . . ."

Chaney concluded, "Touré will surely persuade Prince followers to revisit their messiah's work and, perhaps, see something wholly new underneath the purple rain."

Celia Viggo Wexler

Celia Viggo Wexler, a freelance journalist and a lobbyist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, has written "Out of the News: Former Journalists Discuss a Profession in Crisis (McFarland, $40 hardcover, $40 ebook$14.99 Kindle.)

With the number of former journalists increasing every year, Wexler's book should strike familiar chords. The American Society of News Editors said in 2012 that approximately 800 minority newsroom positions were lost in both 2008 and 2009 and that 500 more were lost or disappeared over the next two years.

Wexler is not one of those former journalists of color, but she devotes a chapter to Wayne Dawkins, a self-described "race man" and the unofficial historian of the National Association of Black Journalists.

"That man is so impressive — his generosity of spirit and his lack of bitterness," Wexler told Journal-isms in an email.

Dawkins teaches at Hampton University after spending a career at daily newspapers, most recently the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., which he left in 2003.

Wexler writes that her book offers "hope to aspiring journalists and those who have lost, or fear they will lose, their jobs as journalists. It demonstrates that the skills and experience derived from a career in journalism are fungible. Former journalists were able to craft new careers from what they had learned working in the news media." She also observed, "Being a journalist isn't something you get over, I realized. It's a way of thinking about things that is forever a part of who you are."

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Cross-Postings From The Root


Question: Why is Black Owned always a temporary thing ?



Response from Free Press re black television station ownership

Dear Richard,

Here is a more extended response to the comments made by Armstrong Williams and his lawyer in your column.

Our article focused on the fact there are no African American owned-and-operated full-power TV stations in the country. (And we were indeed addressing commercial stations not noncommercial ones, a point we will clarify on our website).

The key word is this discussion is the word operate.

To reiterate, we did not count the stations licensed to Armstrong Williams’ Howard Stirk Holdings (“HSH”) because according to legal documents filed by Sinclair with the Federal Communications Commission, Williams does not operate those stations.

Sinclair has long used so-called sidecar companies (or, in reality, shell companies) to circumvent our nation’s broadcast ownership rules. This allows Sinclair to control and operate more TV stations in a market than they’re allowed to by the FCC’s rules.

When Sinclair announced last July that it had struck a deal with Allbritton to buy nine stations as well as the 24-hour cable news network in Washington, D.C, we opposed the transfer of four licenses from Sinclair to its sidecar companies.

Sinclair planned to keep the Allbritton licensees in its own name, and transfer licenses it already holds in these cities to sidecar companies it controls through shared services agreements, joint sale agreements, local marketing agreements and other operating agreements. One of those stations, WMMP-TV in Charleston, S.C., would be transferred to Williams’ company.

Sinclair has a series of binding operating agreements for stations already licensed to HSH, indicating it will operate those outlets, and it proposed exactly the same kind of arrangement for WMMP.

See documents for the WMMP deal listed as exhibits in “Attachment 13” here:

These agreements have HSH paying Sinclair more than $1.85 million in the first year after the transfer to operate WMMP. That pays for a range of services and content, including the news programming that Sinclair would produce for WMMP, over which Sinclair would retain “editorial judgment.” But that’s not all that Williams would owe.

HSH also would have to pay rent to Sinclair, and fork over 30% of WMMP’s ad revenues on top of all these other payments. Sinclair would even have exclusive rights to sell all of WMMP’s advertising, including local ad time, national spots, and online ads too.

Finally, if WMMP’s costs exceeded its revenues, then Sinclair would be on the hook to pay those additional costs. In other words, Sinclair would derive the financial benefit from the station, take on all of the risk, control all of the advertising, and enjoy editorial judgment over WMMP news programming.

As with the other HSH licenses subject to these kinds of agreements, Williams would be the license holder in name only for the purpose of evading FCC rules. That’s why the FCC on December 6th asked Sinclair and HSH to “provide a detailed explanation . . . addressing the financial figures” for the WMMP deal and other transfers that are part the Allbritton acquisition (see letter attached to this email).

Under SEC rules too, HSH would be considered what securities regulators call a Variable Interest Entity (“VIE”) of Sinclair. And as such, the licenses for HSH stations would be considered Sinclair assets under generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”).

Sinclair is the legal owner of the "non-license" assets for these stations, meaning the company owns everything in the building from the cameras to the computers.

See documents here, explaining generally how Sinclair treats the “sidecar” company stations it operates as its own assets for financial purposes:

Once again, Free Press is not the one making the distinction about whether Williams is operating the stations. Sinclair’s SEC filings make clear that “based on the terms of the agreements and the significance of our investment in [such] stations, we are the primary beneficiary of the variable interests” and “we have the power to direct the activities which significantly impact the economic performance of the VIE.”

Even though Williams has said that he operates the stations, the fact remains that Sinclair operates the outlets and retains the majority of their profits.

We can assume this is why the Wall Street Journal, in its Oct 20 article about Sinclair’s strategy to use sidecar companies to circumvent the FCC’s ownership rules, wrote the following about the company’s deal with Williams:

Among Sinclair's recent sidecar deals is with Howard Stirk Holdings, owned by conservative commentator Armstrong Williams. It agreed this year to buy three stations Sinclair would run. Sinclair is guaranteeing the deals' financing.

Mr. Williams, an African-American, praises Sinclair for giving minorities the opportunity to own stations. "There is a closeness between Howard Stirk and Sinclair because David Smith is one of my best friends in the world," he says.

Relations were too close in one case. When Sinclair this year had to divest WSYT, the Syracuse station, it hoped to sell to Howard Stirk, Mr. Williams says, but the Justice Department "said it wouldn't work," because "it would still be like a duopoly."

We weren’t the only group troubled by the these arrangements in the Sinclair-Allbritton deal. The American Cable Association called on the commission to block the entire sale. And Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition called on the FCC to deny the sale of Allbritton’s flagship station in Washington, D.C. to Sinclair.

Rainbow Push also urged the commission to hold a hearing to determine whether Sinclair is actually qualified to be a license holder. And it asked the Commission to investigate whether Sinclair was evading the ownership rules through the use of shared services, local marketing and joint sales agreements in its business relationships with other companies.

(See article here:

The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters also called on the FCC last September to examine the impact that the latest rash of TV transactions – including those by Sinclair – will have on ownership diversity. It also stated:

Several of these transactions include announced LMAs (Local Marketing Agreements) and SSAs (Shared Services Agreements). LMAs and SSAs allow operators to program stations where the FCC's ownership rules do not permit the operators to own the stations. NABOB has long opposed such arrangements, because they often result in sham transactions in which the titular owner exercises no actual control.

So it’s not just Free Press opposing Sinclair’s dealings or the use of business practices to skirt ownership rules; and Sinclair isn’t the only broadcaster that uses these tactics either.

Free Press has opposed other deals too – Tribune’s acquisition of Local TV and Gannett’s acquisition of Belo – that made similar use of shell companies to evade ownership rules. The FCC’s Media Bureau approved those deals on Friday, but we hope that the full Commission will address this problem soon.

Gannett and Tribune use shell companies, shady arrangements and accounting tricks to keep total control over broadcast licenses they can't hold in their own names,” Free Press President Craig Aaron said Friday in response to that news. “They brag to investors and Wall Street analysts about how they can dodge the FCC's cross-ownership limits and get away with it.”

Free Press has documented this troubling practice in a report we released last October.

But the failure of the FCC to enforce its own rules has resulted in greater media consolidation to the detriment of the struggle for greater ownership diversity.

It gives us no joy to write the column that we did Friday since Free Press has been a leading advocate for increasing broadcast ownership by women and people of color. It is a primary reason why we oppose greater media concentration.

We have also worked closely through the years with civil rights and media justice groups to pressure the FCC to address the address its shameful record on this issue.

It is a message our groups recently delivered at a meeting with the new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler earlier this month.

And it also gives us no joy to engage in this debate since it is the result of the FCC’s failure to allow companies like Sinclair, Tribune, Gannett and others to willfully circumvent ownership rules by creating sidecar, shell companies.

Owning a station should come with no strings attached.

Thank you for covering this important issue and debate.


Joseph Torres

Joseph Torres

Senior External Affairs Director

Free Press

202.265-1490; Ext. 27

Twitter: josephAtorres

Response from Armstrong Williams re TV station ownership


Free Press’ response is completely self-serving and disgraceful. In an attempt to explain its "mistake" of excluding my ownership of stations, it now says “owned and operated” were its criteria, and it then simply concludes FCC approved shared service agreements (SSA) meaning I am not operating Flint and Myrtle Beach – hogwash!

Also, in attempting to further establish its bona fides it explains that it is just one of three objectors, but here again it neglects to note that Rainbow Push affirmatively represented in its filings that I was "fully qualified to be a licensee." Was this acknowledgment left out because it is inconvenient to Free Press’ and, as you quoted me on Friday observing, is its version of "the new racism"?

Finally, while Free Press may argue until it's blue in the face that SSAs [shared services agreements] should be illegal and only establish, so its argument goes, ways for big holders like Sinclair to circumvent the FCC’s ownership rules, just last Friday the FCC denied two of its near identical oppositions to the Tribune and Belo transfers and assignments. Curious Free Press didn't mention that? Funny how the facts and the law can get in the way. Why don't you ask Free Press to disclose who is paying them to write and report their utter nonsense and selective ignorance of the facts ?

Armstrong Williams

Manager and Owner/Operator

WWMBCW Myrtle Beach, SC and WEYI25NBC Flint Michigan

Joseph Torres of Free Press responds to Armstrong Williams

December 24, 2013

Dear Richard,

Mr. Williams' latest response to our letter is full of holes. Despite his ad hominem attacks against us, Mr. Williams failed to respond to the financial evidence we laid out showing that Sinclair operates his stations.

We contend that Mr. Williams’ company is a sidecar or shell company, part of a growing trend in the industry to help large media conglomerates like Sinclair evade our nation’s ownership rules.

A couple of quick additional points.

Mr. Williams mistakenly claims that Free Press only "now says" that "owned and operated " was our criteria for our initial article on last Friday.

Not true.

In the second line of that post it states: "There are now zero black-owned and operated full-power TV stations in our country."

He argues that Rainbow/PUSH says he's qualified to be a licensee. But we didn’t dispute his qualifications in our filings or in our Friday blog post. We challenged Sinclair's use of shell companies as a tactic to evade media ownership limits.

He also suggested we failed to mention the Gannett and Tribune decisions issued Friday. Not True. We did. See our letter directly above in this comment section. We stated:

"Free Press has opposed other deals too – Tribune’s acquisition of Local TV and Gannett’s acquisition of Belo – that made similar use of shell companies to evade ownership rules. The FCC’s Media Bureau approved those deals on Friday, but we hope that the full Commission will address this problem soon."

We think it is telling that Mr. Williams chose to make ad hominem attacks rather than address the serious facts we laid out about the agreements between his stations and Sinclair.

Thank you again for giving us the space to have this debate.


Joseph Torres

Senior External Affairs Director

Free Press

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