FCC Says No to Bob Johnson on New Network
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Robert L. Johnson partnered with Ion Media Networks to plan a network that would cater to a multicultural audience. (Credit: CNBC)
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 commlawblog.com 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, 56, a fierce advocate for social justice who broadcast her views 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.' "
- Stephanie Guerilus, Philadelphia Tribune: Fatimah Ali, journalist and radio host, dies
"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 MSNBC.com 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."
"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 theRoot.com 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."
- Jonathan Alter, Washington Post: Five myths about Barack Obama
- Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America: Washington Post Ombudsman Flip Flops On Anti-Obama Hate Rhetoric
- Curtis Brainard, Columbia Journalism Review: Keystone XL Jobs Bewilder Media
- Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: State Of The Union 2012: News Anchors Lunch With Obama
- Cora Currier, ProPublica: Obama’s Unfulfilled State of the Union Goals
- Wayne Dawkins, politicsincolor.com: Plain talk from prez about fairness and return of work
- Elise Foley, Huffington Post: Barack Obama On Immigration In 2012: Not So Different From 2011
- Sam Fulwood III, theGrio.com: How racial demographics could reshape American politics
- dream hampton, ebony.com: VAN JONES: Former Obama "Green" Advisor Talks OWS, Jobs and Why He Really Left the White House
- Andrea Morabito, Broadcasting & Cable: Fox News Tops Cable SOTU Coverage
- Wamara Mwine, politicsincolor.com: State of the Union: Obama Pledges New Strategies for a Failing Economy
- Jorge Rivas, ColorLines: First Lady’s Box at State of the Union Address and the Model Immigrant Narrative
- Raul Rodriguez, New America Media: Obama's State of the Union: Eleven Sentences Too Short
- Lauren Schutte, Hollywood Reporter: President Obama's State of the Union Address: What the Media Is Saying
- Steve Taylor and Raul de la Cruz, Rio Grande Guardian: TBC: Where Was Obama's Focus on Border Security?
- Mark Trahant, indianz.com: It's time to invest in young people of America
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.
"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."
- Henry Banta, Nieman Watchdog: Romney on income inequality and 'quiet rooms'
- Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: The SOTU and Newt's racial stereotype problem.
- Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Newt’s Southern Strategy
- Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: South Carolina Primary: Mitt Romney Press Corps Rankled By Travel, Access Mishaps [Jan. 20]
- Jack Coleman, NewsBusters: Geraldo Condemns Gingrich's 'Racialist' Conduct Toward Juan Williams in GOP Debate
- Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: Will Gingrich Bring White Supremacy Back to the White House?
- Pema Levy, Talking Points Memo: Univision Asks Whether Romney Would Be The First Mexican-American President?
- Michael D. Shear and Trip Gabriel, New York Times: Candidates Scramble to Win Hispanic Votes in Florida
- Transcript: Univision interview with Mitt Romney
- Tonyaa Weathersbee, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Gingrich Rise Ultimate Proof of White Privilege
- DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: Newt the historian should see 'Red Tails'
- Edward Wyckoff Williams, theRoot.com: Colorblind Racism: The New Norm
"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?
- Jim Romenesko blog: Is this why so many media critics are white men?
- At N.Y. Media Ceremony, a Mirror Doesn't Show It All (2009)
- "The targeting of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement has caused the United States to drop precipitously in a leading survey of press freedom," Jack Mirkinson wrote Wednesday for the Huffington Post. ". . . Reporters Without Borders was explicit in its summary of its report, saying that 'the United States (47th) also owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests.' "
- " Romona Robinson, who left Cleveland’s WKYC in December after negotiations to extend her contract failed, is joining rival WOIO-WUAB," Merrill Knox reported Wednesday for TVSpy. "Robinson spent 15 years at WKYC, which is the market’s NBC-affiliate."
- "A day after announcing that Romona Robinson had been hired for afternoon and evening anchor duties, Cleveland CBS affiliate station WOIO Channel 19 confirmed that it would be parting ways with two anchor-reporters, Sharon Reed and Lynna Lai," Mark Dawidziak reported Wednesday for the Plain Dealer.
- "Many Muslim students at Ohio State University have been outraged by an ad in the student newspaper that ties former Muslim student leaders in the U.S. to terrorist groups," Encarnacion Pyle wrote Wednesday for the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. "The advertisement, which ran on the second page of The Lantern on Monday, lists 10 terror suspects under the headline: Former Leaders of the Muslim Student Association (MSA): Where Are They Now?"
- In Chicago, "Santita Jackson has parted company with WVON-AM (1690) after more than five years as midday personality at the Midway Broadcasting urban news/talk station," Robert Feder reported Wednesday for his Time Out Chicago blog. "The eldest daughter of the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, she became a full-time talk-show host after producing TV and radio shows for her father. The move was attributed to 'cost-saving measures' at the station."
- "The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the recommendations of an international conference on the protection of journalists which took place in Doha, Qatar on 22-23 January, saying they will boost the campaign to press governments on their responsibility to protect journalists," the federation said on Wednesday. "The conference agreed to submit to the UN General Assembly a set of recommendations which emphasize the need to vigorously enforce the existing legal instruments, binding national authorities to prevent and punish violence against journalists."
- Hernán López, president and CEO of Fox International Channels, sat down with Veronica Villafañe for her Media Moves column in light of plans for Fox International Channels (FIC) and Colombia’s RCN Television Group (RCN) to launch MundoFox, a new Spanish-language network targeting U.S. Hispanics. "We expect to become a network that viewers go to as a destination, like they go to the Fox network today," López said. "We don’t want to be a network viewers casually find themselves watching. We believe with innovative content and the power of the Fox and RCN brands, we will be a great challenger to the other networks and increase the size of the advertising pie."
- "The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today set aside the conviction of Ernie Lopez, an Amarillo man found guilty in 2003 of sexually assaulting six-month-old Isis Vas. The baby died shortly after the purported attack," A.C. Thompson wrote Wednesday for ProPublica. "Lopez has been serving a term of 60 years in Texas prison for the crime. But a joint reporting effort by ProPublica, NPR, and PBS 'Frontline' last year explored the possibility that Lopez might be innocent."
- "On Wednesday, CNN’s Jason Carroll confronted the controversial mayor of East Haven, Connecticut Joseph Maturo Jr. who was under fire for saying that he would help Latinos in his town by eating tacos," James Crugnale reported Wednesday for Mediaite.
- In Dallas, television writer Ed Bark wrote, "The longstanding $35,000 slander [judgment] against WFAA8 anchor/reporter Shon Gables took another turn late last week when a Michigan circuit court judge ordered the seizure and selling of any personal property remaining in the Southfield, MI condo where she once resided."
- "Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that police need a warrant before placing tracking devices on criminal suspects’ cars is likely to boost murderer Yusuf Bey IV’s appeals, but significant hurdles remain before he would get a new trial, lawyers said," Thomas Peele reported Tuesday for the Chauncey Bailey Project. "Allowing data from a global positioning system placed on Bey IV’s car without a warrant to be used against him is likely a 'harmless error' because of a wealth of other evidence that Bey IV ordered the August 2007 murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey, Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane said."
- In the Dominican Republic, Jhonny Alberto Salazar could be the first journalist to go to jail for defamation, Nisha Thanki wrote for the International Press Institute. Salazar, a journalist for Vida FM and vidadominicana.com, has been found guilty of libelling lawyer Pedro Baldera Gomez. Salazar made comments on his radio station about murders in the area and said a lawyer who works for the Human Rights Commission of Nagua had defended thieves, Thanki wrote.
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