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TV One Opposes Bob Johnson's New Network

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Existing Black Channel Says It Fears Being Dropped

TV One, the joint cable venture between Comcast and Radio One that targets African American adults, is opposing a proposal for a new network by Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television. Robert L. Johnson told TV One's chairman, Alfred Liggins III, 'you argue that TV One should be the only voice.' 

TV One told the Federal Communications Commission that the method that Johnson is using to get his channel on the air could force cable systems to drop TV One.

In response, Johnson sent a letter to TV One's CEO, Alfred Liggins III, saying that "your argument that Urban Television would 'have a devastating impact' on TV One is totally without merit and absolutely self-serving."

Johnson also took issue with TV One's recitation of what it called its recent "public-service programming from an African American perspective," such as its coverage of President Obama's election and inauguration.

"I can recall vividly when you launched TV One you made a strenuous argument that TV One should get mandatory carriage on any cable system that served urban markets," Johnson said. "I further recall when you said BET was not enough. You felt then that BET should not be the only voice. Now, in an amazing turn-about of self interest or motivated by Comcast, the largest cable company which owns a significant stake in TV One, you argue that TV One should be the only voice."

Johnson's new company is to be called Urban Television LLC. Johnson is seeking permission to share time on 42 stations owned by Ion Media Networks Inc., a successor to Pax TV, a family-oriented broadcast network that operated on several UHF channels.

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

Sharing time on the Ion stations is possible with the advent of digital channels. The stations share different audio channels on the same frequency, so that a second network could broadcast 24 hours a day.

ITV One, headed by Liggins, maintains that Johnson's plan 'simply would substitute a government-favored programmer . . . for another, such as TV One, that does not receive the government's favored dispensation.'t is this method of transmission that is at the root of the dispute. The venture is opposed by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which represents the cable industry. "The problem for cable operators is that Johnson wants the Federal Communications Commission to force cable to carry Urban's programming," as it must all over-the-air stations, as Ted Hearn wrote in December for Multichannel News.

"Networks like TV One would potentially be knocked off because they can't carry everything," TV One spokeswoman Lynn McReynolds told Journal-isms, speaking of cable systems. "It simply would substitute a government-favored programmer (Urban) for another, such as TV One, that does not receive the government's favored dispensation," TV One told the FCC.

Johnson won the support of the National Association of Black Journalists and other supporters after a Dec. 23 luncheon meeting with Johnson at a Washington restaurant. "We're trying to expand the footprint of African American ownership," NABJ President Barbara Ciara told Journal-isms then.

The other groups - not all present at the meeting - were the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, the International Black Broadcasters Association, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, the NAACP, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, National Bar Association, National Urban League, Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Video Access Alliance. Johnson made a presentation and anticipated their concerns, David Honig, executive director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, told Journal-isms afterward.

Johnson, too, talked about ownership in Thursday's letter to Liggins.

"You know as well as I that there are over 500 majority-owned channels serving the viewing interest of the majority community and while African Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, there is only one channel, yours, that is minority-owned," Johnson said.

"This position is not only a detriment to diversity, which we all support, it clearly argues that the cable industry has an obligation to serve the broad public interest by providing more diversity for the African American customers who spend in excess of $4 Billion annually on cable to receive literally two black program oriented channels.

"Furthermore, let me be clear the digital must carry that we are seeking would in no way reduce carriage for TV One, BET, or will any way prevent the future expansion of TV One or BET. Cable systems (based on engineering specifications) have the technological capacity to carry a second digital channel without any reduction in cable channel spectrum. In other words, digital channels don't require the cable operators to drop any existing cable service.

"Therefore, your argument that Urban Television would 'have a devastating impact' on TV One is totally without merit and absolutely self-serving."

Rocky Mountain News Closing Friday After 150 Years

"Colorado's oldest newspaper will publish its final edition Friday," Denver 's Rocky Mountain News reported Thursday.

"The Rocky Mountain News, less than two months away from its 150th anniversary, will be closed after a search for a buyer proved unsuccessful, the E.W. Scripps Co. announced today," the newspaper said.

"'Today the Rocky Mountain News, long the leading voice in Denver, becomes a victim of changing times in our industry and huge economic challenges,' Rich Boehne, chief executive officer of Scripps, said in a prepared statement. 'The Rocky is one of America's very best examples of what local news organizations need to be in the future. Unfortunately, the partnership's business model is locked in the past.'

"The Rocky has been in a joint operating agreement with The Denver Post since 2001. The arrangement approved by the U.S. Justice Department allowed the papers to share all business services, from advertising to printing, in order to preserve two editorial voices in the community."

"More than 200 newsroom staffers will face their last deadlines and file their final stories after enduring months of nervous uncertainty over the News' future," the Denver Post noted.

In the annual diversity census of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Rocky reported 16.4 percent journalists of color, with 2.7 percent Asian American, 3.3 percent black and 10.4 percent Hispanic.

"The Rocky Mountain News was the first to partner with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Parity Project , and a pioneer in the project's efforts to diversify the ranks of America's newsrooms and advocate for fair coverage of Latinos," NAHJ said in a statement.

"The Rocky Mountain News had established a long history of covering issues important to Denver's Latino community and its passing places an added responsibility on The Denver Post to strengthen its efforts to ensure that those voices are not ignored.

"The National Association of Hispanic Journalists remains firm in its efforts to support its community partners in Denver to continue advocating for fair coverage of Latinos and increasing our ranks in its press corps."

W.A. Tatum, N.Y. Amsterdam News Chairman, Dies at 76

Wilbert A. Tatum, the colorful publisher emeritus and board chairman of the New York Amsterdam News, died Wednesday night in Croatia after showing flu-like symptoms for the past couple of days, Gary A. Ramsay, president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, said Thursday. He was 76 and was in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on vacation with his wife, Susan.

Wilbert Tatum "He died after multiple organ shutdown around 1 a.m. local time, said Elinor Tatum," Jennifer 8. Lee wrote on the New York Times Web site. "Ms. Tatum said her father was a diabetic and had been in a wheelchair."

Tatum and several Harlem business associates bought New York's largest black newspaper in 1983, and Tatum eventually acquired a controlling interest. In 1997, Elinor Tatum, became publisher and editor in chief. Though the weekly's audited circulation was only 12,379 in March 2007, it had greater influence in part because of its chairman's personality.

Writing in 1993 for the New York Times, Jonathan P. Hicks said of Tatum, "In the 22 years Mr. Tatum has led The Amsterdam News, he has been cheered and vilified by readers for editorial positions: his defense of Tawana Brawley; his printing the name of the Central Park jogger who was raped; his stinging weekly diatribes against Mayor Edward I. Koch. . .

"A man who speaks in a clipped, declamatory, almost theatrical manner - he will even suggest the punctuation for his own quotes to an interviewer - Mr. Tatum is a bundle of complexities.

"Few among his staff at The Amsterdam News would speak about him for attribution. But privately, they describe a man who expresses passionate views on fairness for minorities, yet who is so stubborn and occasionally petty that he alienates even those who agree with him."

But in 1999, when Elinor Tatum accepted an award from the organization of black-community publishers, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, she said of her father, "It's tough being the publisher of a Black newspaper in New York. Whenever any racial issues arise, every single sentence is analyzed and critiqued by traditional media, skeptics and racists. At times even rival Black newspapers take up the gauntlet to present a challenge," she said, according to an account in her newspaper.

"But my father has been steadfast in the face of adversity and I am very proud of all he has accomplished in the name of publishing."

Hicks wrote that Tatum was a North Carolina native who lost his Southern accent by speaking in high school oratory contests. He began in journalism working for three small newspapers founded by his father to provide information to black farmers.

"Tatum had to leave America to follow his dream due to the lack of substantive career opportunities for African Americans at the time," according to a biography prepared when he was awarded an honorary degree in 2005 at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

"He spent an extended period of time in Europe where he worked as a reporter and columnist for Stockholm's TIDNIGEN in Sweden, and AKUELT in Copenhagen, Denmark. He returned to America and in 1971, Mr. Tatum purchased the NEW YORK AMSTERDAM NEWS with his partners. In 1972 they went on to purchase New York City radio stations WLIB and WBLS: the flagship stations of the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation's consortium of stations in California, Michigan, Texas, Indiana and New York. Mr. Tatum and his partners also own corporate stock for the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem."

In 1996, a jury in New York State Supreme Court sided with an angry shareholder in a long-running battle for control of the paper and found that Tatum had "wrongfully diverted" $1.05 million in corporate money.

Though he had been accused of being anti-Semitic, his wife, the former Susan Kohn, was a Jewish refugee from the old Czechoslovakia.

He last appeared in the Amsterdam News in the Jan. 29-Feb. 4 issue, after talk-show host Rush Limbaugh said he wished President Obama would fail. "It is not our wish that Limbaugh has any bad luck. It is, rather, that we wish he would have a stroke of bad luck that would kill him deader than hell," Tatum wrote.

"We do not wish him death, not in the traditional sense. We wish him death in the sense that that part of his mouth that persuades people against their own best interest would be thwarted and banished from the earth. While some would think this cruel, we rather think it is a just way in which to do things after one has been so patient in meting out sentences to such reprobates.

". . . We have got to get down to business in America."

Tatum was the New York Association of Black Journalists' Lifetime Achievement Award winner last year for print journalism.


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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Diversity in the media

When we discuss the issue of diversity in the newsrooms around the country, color isn't enough. Experienced African American journalists were targets during the Bush administration. The combination of our age, experience and influence made us 'undesirable' in newsrooms. We got fired for no reasons other than the fact we would oppose Iraq, Guantanamo, and everything else the administration did. Had we been in place, perhaps we wouldn't be in the situation we are in. A free press means more than just diversity of color, it also has to have diversity of conscience. My generation of broadcasters was just that. We were the children of the civil rights movement, and vowed to do things better than those who got their jobs simply because they were black. Del Walters President and CEO 3PE Productoins Former Washington D.C. news anchor 22 Emmy's for investigative reporting. Out of the business >

Others Should Follow ASNE's Lead

Bravo to ASNE for making a difficult decision. I wish the other journalism groups would follow suit. I wrote a letter to Unity leaders following the 2008 convention asking them to continue to combine efforts. My request fell on death ears. In fact, all of the journalism groups should and need to band together if they are to move forward with annual meetings. There should be one agenda---healing our great profession and making is sustainable for the future. If we don't ALL work together, more papers will die and the role of the watchdog will be just another page in the history books! Sincerely, Merissa Green 2000 FAMU graduate and Central Florida journalist

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