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FCC Says No to Bob Johnson on New Network

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Broadcasters, NABJ Backed Idea; Cable Industry Opposed

Fatimah Ali, Philadelphia Columnist, Dies at 56

Somali Pirates Still Holding U.S. Journalist for Ransom

Obama's Message Was Well-Received, but Fewer Watched

Romney, Gingrich Keep Appointments on Univision

Fla. Hispanics Favor Romney Over Gingrich, Poll Finds

"Where Are The Women And Non-White Media Critics?"

Short Takes

Robert L. Johnson partnered with Ion Media Networks to plan a network that would cater to a multicultural audience. (Credit: CNBC)

Broadcasters, NABJ Backed Idea; Cable Industry Opposed

After considering his novel proposal for three years, the Federal Communications Commission has turned down Robert L. Johnson's idea for a new "urban" television network that would operate on the digital subchannels available on broadcast television.

The network planned to cater to a multicultural audience interested in health, lifestyle, education and other issues,

Johnson, who co-founded Black Entertainment Television, joined Ion Media Networks, Inc., which says it owns and operates the nation's largest broadcast television station group, in proposing that their joint venture share time on 42 Ion-owned stations.

The FCC dismissed the proposal, maintaining that Johnson and Ion misinterpreted the "shared time" concept.

The proposal drew the attention of a wide array of cable, broadcast and media advocacy groups. The cable channel TV One told the FCC that the method that Johnson would use could force cable systems to drop TV One

But Johnson won the support of the National Association of Black Journalists and other groups. "We're trying to expand the footprint of African American ownership," then-NABJ President Barbara Ciara told Journal-isms at the time. The National Association of Broadcasters supported the proposal, but the National Cable & Telecommunications Association opposed it.

Sharing time on the Ion stations is possible with the advent of digital channels, John Lawson, who in 2008 was Ion's executive vice president for policy and strategic initiatives, told Journal-isms at the time.

Unlike in previous decades, when "shared time" meant a second radio station might broadcast on the same frequency at night, today the stations simply share different audio channels on the same frequency; so a second network could broadcast 24 hours a day. The "shared time" concept was originally created to boost minority access to the airwaves, Lawson said.

Ion Media owns 49 percent of the venture and Johnson's RLJ Companies 51 percent.

In a Jan. 6 letter, the FCC dismissed the applications from Johnson and the Ion stations.

"By the applications, Urban is proposing to separate a multicast DTV [digital television] channel currently controlled by Ion and establish a new license for each programming stream" [PDF], Barbara A. Kreisman, chief of the Video Division, wrote.

"The proposal is not consistent with our licensing rules. As those opposing the applications have argued, Section 73.1715 of our rules, on which the proposal is based, contemplates share-time operations that involve primarily a division of time, not a division of spectrum and assignment of a portion of the spectrum to a new licensee.

"Since the applications were filed, channel sharing arrangements quite different from that proposed here have become the subject of an outstanding Notice of Proposed Rulemaking."

In other words, according to Peter Tannenwald of the Community Broadcasters Association, who disclosed the FCC decision Jan. 15 on his blog, the Johnson-Ion proposal was not in synch with a similar plan the FCC later devised.

"As part of its push to 'repurpose' television broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband use, the FCC has, since 2010, been promoting the idea of channel sharing," Tannenwald wrote. "The idea is that two or more TV stations would share one 6 MHz broadcast channel, each having its own program stream. One of the primary keys to enticing broadcasters to take the bait is that each station stream would have cable and satellite must-carry rights," meaning cable and satellite stations would be obligated to carry the channel.

". . . According to the letter, the application involved 'a division of time, not a division of spectrum'. That's an interesting — and arguably meaningless — distinction . . . It’s neither unusual nor unreasonable for the FCC to shy away from a novel proposal if a similar idea is already under study in a formal rulemaking proceeding. But when the Commission is struggling to entice broadcasters to operate jointly on a single TV channel, what message does the Commission send when it summarily flushes a very similar proposal down the drain?"

Neither Johnson nor a spokesman for Ion could be reached for comment, but one source familiar with the proceedings said "thousands and thousands" of dollars were spent on the proposal in filing fees.

Other interested parties, each of which filed petitions with the FCC on the  proposal, included the DISH Network, L.L.C.; Gospel Music Channel, the Africa Channel, and SiTV, Inc.; Entravision Holdings; the Media Freedom Project; Viacom, Inc.; the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council; Common Cause; the Community Broadcasters Association; and the I Want That Shopping Network.

Since the Johnson-Ion proposal was made in 2008, a number of other African American entrepreneurs have announced plans for television networks, the latest being Sean Combs, the entertainment impresario, who is planning a music-themed cable network that would be distributed by Comcast. Johnson, meanwhile, has continued his other entrepreneurial interests.

"Johnson calls the post-BET phase of his business life his 'second act,' " the Washington Informer wrote in January. "His company, which manages $5 billion in assets and employs 10,000 people, owns or holds significant interests in 15 portfolio companies which are focused on asset management, creating the climate to enable overlooked or undervalued companies to become profitable, and making inroads into underserved markets. RLJ is based in Bethesda, Md., with operations in New York, Florida, Los Angeles, Monrovia, Liberia and San Juan, Puerto Rico."

In 2010, Johnson sold the Charlotte Bobcats for $275 million to former Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan. Johnson had been the first African American to be majority owner of a NBA team.

Fatimah Ali, Philadelphia Columnist, Dies at 56

"Fatimah Ali, 56, a fierce advocate for social justice who broadcast her Fatimah Aliviews on local radio and wrote a column for the Philadelphia Daily News from 2006 to 2011, died in her sleep Monday, Jan. 23, in her North Philadelphia home," John F. Morrison reported Wednesday for the Philadelphia Daily News.

"One of her daughters, Khadija Ahmaddiya, said the cause of death was not known.

". . . Ms. Ali was best known locally for her Daily News column and her two-hour daily broadcasts on WURD-AM (900), where she hosted The Real Deal With Fatimah Ali.

"It began in March 2011, and her last broadcast was a report on the activities of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

"Ms. Ali described herself as a 'God-loving mother of five and grandmother. I'm a journalist, a radiohead, who loves her family, her roots, people, art, food, news and information, and culture."

" 'The beauty of Fatimah Ali's career is that despite career changes, she seized new opportunities for her vibrant voice to be heard,' said Sarah J. Glover, president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and a Daily News photographer.

" 'She's a Philly gal who kept it real, produced thoughtful commentary in written and spoken words, and gave back to the community.' "

Somali Pirates Still Holding U.S. Journalist for Ransom

Michael Scott Moore"Lost in the coverage of the Navy SEAL rescue mission in Somalia is the fact that another American was kidnapped there four days ago and is being held for ransom," NBC News and the staff reported on Wednesday.

"It’s also not clear if President Obama’s vow on Tuesday to protect U.S. citizens would extend to a rescue operation on his behalf.

"Michael Scott Moore, an American writer who started his career tracking the surfing world and who was in Somalia to report about piracy, was kidnapped on Saturday.

"In a statement released by the White House after the overnight rescue of American Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted of Denmark, Obama on Wednesday vowed: 'The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice.' "

"Asked Wednesday about Moore at a press briefing, a State Department spokeswoman said she had no information but would get back to reporters."

". . . Moore had been reporting for the German magazine Der Spiegel when he was abducted on a road as he was heading to an airport."

Obama's Message Was Well-Received, but Fewer Watched

President Obama's embrace of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., gravely wounded last year by a would-be assassin, was displayed prominently in the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.

"An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of the overall message in President Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News poll of speech watchers," Lucy Madison reported for CBS News.

However, Bill Carter reported for the New York Times, "There were an estimated 37.8 million television viewers of President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the lowest total in his presidency.

"The State of the Union address Tuesday night was seen by 37.8 million television viewers, according to figures released by the Nielsen company, by far the fewest who have watched President Obama give the address."

According to the CBS poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president's address, "91 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks. Only nine percent disapproved," Madison reported.

"Last year, 83 percent of viewers approved of Mr. Obama's State of the Union remarks.

"This year, 82 percent of those who watched the speech said they approve of the president's plans for the economy, up from 53 percent who approved before the speech. Eighty percent said they approved of Mr. Obama's plans for the deficit — in contrast to 45 percent before the speech. Eighty-three percent approved of Mr. Obama's proposals regarding Afghanistan, which received only a 57 percent approval rating beforehand."

An online survey by released before the address found that Obama "has reason to be cautiously optimistic about the support he will get from his base for his re-election bid. However, to cement their support, he will need to focus on the issues that are most important to them in the 2012 campaign season: job creation and unemployment."

Romney, Gingrich Keep Appointments on Univision

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich appeared Wednesday on Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language television network, although last fall all GOP candidates except Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, announced they wouldn't participate in a proposed debate on that network.

They were protesting the network's handling of a story related to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. However, as the Associated Press noted on Monday, "It's not a debate since the candidates will appear separately."

Gingrich, the former House speaker, "told Univision's Jorge Ramos on Wednesday that he wants at least 50 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election, and denied that his criticisms of President Clinton for having an affair were hypocritical," Hispanic Business reported.

Former senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was scheduled to appear, but attended private fundraisers instead.

" 'We had a change in schedule a few days ago and asked (Univision) if they could move it and they said they couldn’t,' Santorum said to reporters Wednesday after a large rally at First Baptist Church in Naples," Andrew Abramson reported for the Palm Beach Post. " 'We tried to change our schedule so we could do it, and they said they weren’t willing to change the schedule. It’s unfortunate. We were able and wanted to do it, but they couldn’t. And it’s not their fault, they just said they couldn’t reorganize. ' "

In his appearance, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, accused Gingrich "of pandering to Florida’s Latino voters by mocking Romney’s stance on immigration," Roz Helderman reported for the Washington Post.

Fla. Hispanics Favor Romney Over Gingrich, Poll Finds

Meanwhile, Univision, ABC News and Latino Decisions released a new survey Wednesday of 500 registered Hispanic voters nationwide, with an oversample of 500 registered Hispanic voters in Florida.

"Among Hispanic Floridians planning to vote in next Tuesday’s GOP primary, Mitt Romney holds a 15 point advantage over Newt Gingrich (35-20), with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum polling at 6% and 7% respectively and 21% undecided," Univision said.

"In a head-to-head match-up, President Obama continues to hold a strong advantage over his most likely GOP rivals: 67–25 over Romney; 70–22 over Gingrich."

A "mixed picture of a Hispanic electorate not yet enthusiastically committed to President Obama and the Democrats, yet wary about supporting a Republican party that has taken such a tough stance on the issue of immigration was evident throughout the survey’s findings."

"Where Are The Women And Non-White Media Critics?"

Andrew Beaujon"A hearty congratulations to City Paper alum Andrew Beaujon on accepting a gig at Poynter as the site's 'new Romenesko,' " Shani Hilton wrote Wednesday for Washington City Paper. "There, he'll be writing a media blog edited by Julie Moos that will replace the work of Jim Romenesko, who left Poynter last year and launched his own blog.

"With all of the changes happening in journalism, it seems to be a good time to opine and report about the media. Plenty of blogs and bloggers do so brilliantly, but so do a few hearty souls in traditional outlets. A quick brainstorm session brought forth a list of high-profile names: Romenesko and Beaujon, yes. But also, The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz, NYU's Jay Rosen, the Maynard Institute's Richard Prince, plus four more City Paper alumni: [Reuters'] Jack Shafer, the New York Times' David Carr, former New York Observer media beatster Tom Scocca (now at Deadspin) and the [Washington]  Post's Erik Wemple.

"Aside from Prince, all of these people are white men," she added, though she omitted Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, who chairs the Media Monitoring Committee of the National Association of Black Journalists. "It's generally accepted that diversity (geographical, economic, gender and race) bring differing perspectives to the newsroom and can enhance coverage. That's why journalism has been fighting (and some could say, losing) a battle for greater diversity for decades.

"Beaujon has a theory for why white men are so prevalent in the field: 'Media criticism, which is a fly-in-the-soup job, is fundamentally an alt-weekly pursuit, and alt-weeklies' DNA is heavily white and male. In turn, I have a couple theories about that, but my working one is that it's because working at such places gives white males such as myself a chance to feel like an underdog for once in our lives.'

". . . maybe more importantly, the ability to criticize probably comes a bit easier for folks who don't ever have the question, 'Should I even be here?" hanging over their heads as they look around a room and don't see anyone who looks like them.' "

Are Hilton and Beaujon right?

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Dear Maureen Dowd by Bernestine Singley

Ms. Singley performed surgery on the NYTs Maureen Dowd with a very sharp scalpel without benefit of anesthesia. Hopefully, the patient, Dowd, signed a directive--DNR. 

Beaujon: Claims White males are underdogs

As a Black activist I have encountered all manner of excuses, deflections, fiction whenever I advocate for inclusion and diversity at media outlets.

To now read yet another twisted excuse for the lack of inclusion by Andrew Beaujon is not a surprise but to read a Black journalist affirm such fictional nonsense makes me want to puke.

It is sad observing a Black journalist make excuses for white privledge there has to be a reason perhaps being the only person of color on staff triggers such pulp fiction.

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