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TV One Launches, With Adding Markets a Challenge

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Sunday, January 18, 2004

TV One Launches, With Adding Markets a Challenge

TV One, the Comcast-Radio One cable venture targeting African Americans, went live as scheduled at 12:01 a.m. today, Martin Luther King Day, on cable systems with the potential to reach 2.2 million homes.

Reaching more homes is one of its biggest challenges.

"Over the next few months, the network will also debut in Philadelphia, Oakland, Calif., and Chicago on Comcast systems. But the channel has not cracked some large urban markets, such as New York and Los Angeles. A week before its launch, it still hadn't signed deals with cable carriers other than Comcast," wrote Stephen Manning for the Associated Press.

"'In the long run, that is not enough if they are going to try to build a national network,' said David Bank, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets who covers the broadcasting industry. 'They are going to need carriage on every multiple service operator (cable provider),'" Manning wrote. The number of markets carrying TV One is ambiguous, as it depends on how the markets are counted, spokeswoman Lynn McReynolds told Journal-isms.

A news release says that "as of January 19, the network will be available to 2.2 million subscribers in the following Comcast markets," listing Atlanta; Detroit; Flint, Mich.; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Richmond, Va.; Ocean City, Md.; Baltimore County, Md.; Montgomery County, Md.; Prince George's County, Md.; Howard County, Md.; Anne Arundel County, Md.; Arlington County, Va.; Alexandria, Va.; Dover, Del.; and Rehoboth Beach, Del.

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Caroline Wilbert reported that, "Jack Myers, who tracks the media industry for his newsletter The Jack Myers Report, said TV One needs to create buzz with a high-profile event, such as an awards show, or an original hit series. If TV One can do that, cable operators in other markets will want to pick up the network, he said.

"Cable networks typically generate half their revenue from fees from cable operators and half from advertising. However, a network must land the cable deals -- called carriage -- first. National advertisers aren't interested unless a network is available in at least 15 million homes, Myers said."

Not to mention, as the Washington Times did, that 2.2 million subscribers is "a modest number compared with BET, which is seen in 78 million households."

It's not that TV One hasn't tried for more eyeballs. In the Washington Post today, Krissah Williams reports that CEO Johnathan Rodgers "had hoped to roll out the channel in the nation's two dozen largest cities. He could swing only seven.

"Three days before the network was to air, he flew to Jackson, Miss., to meet with the state's black mayors. He asked them to write Time Warner Inc. chief executive Richard D. Parsons to 'request their citizens be allowed to watch TV One.' Rodgers and his sales team will try just about anything to get Time Warner and other big system operators to put the channel on their basic cable tier. Digital cable has fewer subscribers than basic cable and costs more, so channels want to be on basic. But the basic cable tier is full in many cities and the cable companies are putting new networks on the digital tier."

Yet there is more at stake, according to Rodgers. "This isn't just the launch of a television network. This is a movement," he said in the Washington Times.

The Baltimore Sun noted, "TV One's creators hope not only to influence the content of black television, but to tap the nearly $700 billion buying power of African-Americans."

BET spokesman Michael Lewellen wished TV One well, but in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Willie Gary of the Major Broadcasting Co. said it was important to be black-owned.

"Atlanta-based MBC has been on the air five years but hasn't landed big distribution deals," wrote Wilbert. "It reaches 11 million homes, mostly on the digital tier. MBC, founded by Florida trial attorney Willie Gary and backed by high-profile investors like Evander Holyfield, airs black college sports, religious programming and news.

"Gary said MBC's growth is steady, and he isn't worried about competition from TV One.

"'The idea that you can only have one African-American network is a bunch of hogwash,' he said.

"Gary said MBC has a key advantage: It is 100 percent owned by African-Americans.

"'We had the opportunity to partner with Comcast,' he said. 'We didn't want to give up the niche of being a black-owned network. That means a lot to a lot of people.'

"But others say that a big-name media partner is necessary.

"'You can't do it without one of the top cable companies, Comcast or Time Warner, or a combination of the smaller ones,' Myers said.

Fresh Angles for Martin Luther King Coverage

Looking for a fresh angle on Martin Luther King? Mary Sanchez writes on the Poynter site:

"Most of the misinterpretations and oversimplifications of King's story are based on overemphasizing the King of 1963.

"He didn't die until April 1968.

"And to me, King's greatest attribute is how his views changed radically during his lifetime. He should be applauded for how he both struggled with, and later formed, his opinions on race, global issues, and nonviolence.

"Here are a few ideas that readers, viewers, and listeners might find interesting:

"1. Contrary to popular image, King did not always like, much less embrace, white people. . . .

"2. King struggled to become a believer in nonviolence and it wasn't Gandhi that convinced him. . . .

"3. King took halting steps toward his views on the Vietnam War and global poverty. . . .

Idaho Paper Does Special Report on Sacajawea

"As the nation commemorated the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition, The Idaho Statesman at Boise provided print and multimedia special reports on Sacajawea, the famed native daughter of Idaho. The reports used the words, images and oral traditions of Sacajawea's tribe, the Lemhi Shoshoni of Idaho, to tell her story," the Gannett Co. reports.

"Sacajawea never learned to read or write, never held a public office, never made a significant discovery," the newspaper wrote.

"Countless Americans have grown up believing she was the Indian guide who led Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean, when in fact she wasnŽt a guide at all.

"As the nation commemorates the Lewis and Clark bicentennial with seemingly inexhaustible tributes to her, her people are living as an obscure and repressed minority on a desert reservation nothing like the beautiful mountains of their homeland. The woman who appears on the Sacajawea coin isnŽt a Lemhi Shoshoni, and the tribe of the woman who contributed more than any other to the opening of the West isnŽt recognized as a tribe by the federal government. This is her story and theirs. The story of Sacajawea and her people -- by her people."

"Super Fly" Star's Death Returns 2 to Their Youth

The death of actor Ron O'Neal -- best known for the 1972 movie "Super Fly" -- of cancer at age 66 drew immediate reactions from two African American newspaper journalists who vividly remember the era:

In the Washington Post, Style section writer Wil Haygood, who recalled being 17 at the time, told a personal story:

"I listen to the wondrous 'Superfly' soundtrack now and then and become alternately jumpy and melancholy. Melancholy because it makes me think of family: The sister, Geraldine, who died a year ago after decades (starting in the '70s) of drug abuse. The sister, Wonder, in and out of drug rehab, currently unemployed. I thought she had kicked it; she swore. The brother, Harry, in and out of drug rehab. I thought he had kicked the heroin; he swore. The brother, Macaroni, Superfly, in and out of jail (just released yet again mere months ago). I thought, as did his wife Helen, he had kicked it; he promised.

"It was just a movie. And may Ron O'Neal be remembered for the way he pleaded with anyone listening not to follow in the twisting unpredictable road of his Superfly."

And in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Metro columnist Sam Fulwood III, a high school student when the movie opened, wrote of the character:

"As false and distorted as this image of black men was, too many of us embraced it. Some, like O'Neal, got caught up in it.

"For example, the popular images of gangsta rap -- guns, drugs, designer fashion, misogyny -- trace their origins directly to the blaxploitation movies. Think Snoop Dogg."

CBS Chief Asked About Julie Chen Relationship

CBS Chairman and Chief Executive Leslie Moonves was briefing television writers on his network's plans when "the session took an unexpected turn soon after he discussed the ratings growth of the long-struggling 'The Early Show,' which he said is up 1 million viewers from last year," reports Greg Braxton in the Los Angeles Times. "Julie Chen, one of the morning show's anchors and the host of CBS' 'Big Brother,' has been romantically linked with Moonves, who is in the middle of a divorce.

"Gail Shister, TV columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, asked Moonves if he planned to stay out of decisions about 'The Early Show.' The question marked the first time that Moonves had been asked in front of the gathering of reporters about his relationship with Chen, who was not mentioned by name.

"He was clearly surprised, responding, 'What, are you writing for Page Six now, Gail?' referring to the New York Post gossip page. He then said he and CBS News President Andrew Heyward had worked out a system on 'The Early Show' that was 'above board,'" Braxton wrote.

"Blacks Are an Intrinsic Part of Iraqi Society"

The black presence in Iraq became the subject of the second piece in a major newspaper in a week's time. On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times devoted its "Column One" space to a report by black journalist Ann M. Simmons.

"Blacks are an intrinsic part of Iraqi society, and generally are treated as such. Some have ascended to significant positions in academia, trade and other professions. Like other Iraqis, they speak Arabic, and most are Muslims belonging to the country's Shiite majority or the Sunni minority," she wrote.

Simmons said that, "For now, the demise of the former system has left government agencies and administrative departments in disarray, making access to statistical information on the ethnic breakdown of Iraq's population of 23 million difficult to obtain. Still, some academics put the number of Iraqis of African decent at about 1%, though others believe that figure could be as high as 5%."

The previous Sunday, the Washington Post ran a piece by Theola Labbé, "A Legacy Hidden in Plain Sight," that focused more on the cultural connections between black Iraqis and Africa.

N.Y. Times Story Examines Black-Latino Dynamic

A year ago, the Census Bureau reported that Latinos had surpassed African Americans as the nation's largest minority group, a development we called the top story affecting newsroom diversity last year.

The New York Times' Mireya Navarro wrote Saturday that "That statistical shift, years in the making, hardly came as a surprise. Yet it has captured the attention of both Latinos and blacks, who have been grappling with its meaning in meeting rooms, on radio shows and on the Internet.

"Those conversations have raised hard questions: Does the ascendance of Hispanics mean a decline in the influence of blacks? Does it doom, or encourage, alliances between the two groups? Does the old formula for those alliances -? shared grievances ?- have much meaning given the diversity of income and status even within each group?"

"Brownout Report" Resonates in South Bend

The "Network Brownout Report" from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists -- pointing out the dearth of Latino influence in television -- found resonance in South Bend, Ind.

Alesia I. Redding reported in the South Bend Tribune:

"The Rev. Chris Cox of St. Adalbert Catholic Church wonders why national news offers so few positive and uplifting stories -- 'stories of good people, of new life,' he says. These are the kinds of stories he regularly sees in the local Hispanic community," she wrote.

"Cox borrows a quote from'The Lord of the Rings' -- 'I wonder what sort of tale we've fallen into?' -- to talk about the deep and lasting effect of the stories we hear.

"'Stories are important. They become embedded in our lives; they stick in our minds. The kind of stories we tell is important,'" Redding wrote.

"Unfortunately, he says, the stories we get from network newscasts 'make people afraid and reinforce negative perceptions.'"

Underreported: Latin American Sex Trade

Stories about women abducted from Eastern Europe and Asia and forced into sexual slavery have been brought to the attention of the public and of the Bush administration. But, as the New York Times pointed out in an editorial, "Washington has yet to give as much attention to Latin America."

In an editorial reprinted in California's Monterey Herald, the Times notes that, "Of the 15 nations the State Department listed last year as having done little or nothing to stop this growing human rights abuse, five of the worst offenders were in the Western Hemisphere: Belize, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname.

"A study by the Inter-American Commission of Women at the Organization of American States in Washington shows that Latin American nations have mostly sat back as women and children were treated as chattels.

"Women from Colombia were smuggled as far away as Japan, and Dominican women ended up against their will in Switzerland. Young Mexicans were enslaved in several states, including Texas, Florida and New Jersey. Costa Rica and Belize became destinations for impoverished women from Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Without passports or money, they were forced to supply sex to tourists, usually from the United States and Europe. At least 70 Internet sites promote sex tourism in Costa Rica."

New Stamp Keeps Paul Robeson Controversial

That the U.S. government plans to issue a stamp Tuesday honoring Paul Robeson, "the legendary Black actor, singer, athlete, intellectual and civil rights activist," as Bill Alexander described him on, truly is noteworthy, given that the idea was rejected in 1998 and that the government had hounded Robeson for his communist affiliations.

As Alexander writes, "During the communist-baiting American political landscape of the 1950s, as epitomized by the demagogic Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), who hauled scores of Americans before Senate hearings to testify on their affiliations with Communism, Robeson?s passport was yanked and he was forbidden to travel abroad because of speeches he gave at Black churches and concert halls."

The Postal Service says it is honoring Robeson for his art, not his politics. But conservative columnists haven't taken this government reversal lying down.

"Let's put it simply," Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, wrote last week in The Washington Times. "The radical left in America has won a great propaganda victory in getting an arm of our government to honor a man who dedicated his artistry to a bloody tyrant," Stalin.

Earlier, in the New York Post, Eric Fettmann wrote:

"Robeson's refusal to acknowledge the truth about one of the 20th century's two great evils ultimately undermined his ability to persuasively confront white America about the racial injustices it continued to perpetrate even during his lifetime.

"And it explains why licking the new Paul Robeson stamp may leave a bitter taste in your mouth."

The Young Communist League-USA (yes, such groups still exist) gives a history of the fight for the stamp on its Web site.

Photo of stamp

Black GOP Candidates Reported Downplaying Race

The departure of Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., from Congress a year ago left Congress without any black Republican in the national legislature, so the Capitol Hill weekly The Hill deserves credit for a story on those who want to fill Watts' shoes.

"In 2004, 10 black Republicans are running for the House and Senate; these candidates come from Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Rhode Island," reports Lizzie Andrews.

"Unlike many black Democrats, whose political roots go back to the civil rights battles of the 1950s and ?60s, these Republicans draw a distinction between politics and race, arguing that their worldview has little to do with what they look like.

"By contrast, many of the 39 black Democrats in Congress view race and politics as intimately connected -? similar to Malcolm X, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton," Andrews writes.

Flip Wilson Journalism Awards Go to 2 at Rutgers

"Two senior journalism and media studies students will share $23,500 as the first Rutgers University recipients of Flip Wilson Scholarships, the school announced Friday," the Associated Press reports.

"The awards, created to help promote diversity in the newsroom, were endowed by the late comedian at Rutgers and several other universities, including the University of Washington.

"Janine Brown of Jersey City and Marguerite Estephan of Easton, Pa., were selected after writing essays on Wilson's work."

"Raised by her single mother and grandmother, Brown has a second interview scheduled this week to become an intern with ABC's 'Good Morning America,' and she has set her sights on attending graduate school for broadcast journalism in September at either Syracuse, Columbia or New York Universities," Ken Thorbourne reported in the Jersey Journal of Jersey City, N.J..

"Wilson's friend and former publicist Kathleen Fearn-Banks encouraged [Wilson] to create the scholarships, so his money could make an impact on the black community after his death," AP continued.

"Other schools chosen were the University of Washington, Wayne State University in Michigan, California State University-Northridge and Howard University in Washington, D.C.," the AP said.

As reported last June, Daniel Wallace, 20, of Detroit, was Wayne State's first recipient of the $25,000 scholarship, the Detroit Free Press said then.

The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information.

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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