Wed, 2 April 2014
Armstrong Williams Wants “Diversity” Favor from FCC
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“Williams claims that he is known to provide broadcast content that reflects a minority perspective.”
The Federal Communications Commission this week dealt at least a potential blow to the monopolists who have sucked every drop of social value out of American commercial television. The FCC ruled that TV stations that sell substantial portions of other TV stations advertizing, are the real owners of the station, and thus are violating rules against multiple ownerships in the same market. The practice of joint advertizing has meant that many stations are little more than shells for getting around the rules against monopolization. The National Association of Black Journalists applauds the FCC action, since shared advertizing agreements usually mean firing the whole newsroom of one of the stations. The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council supports the ruling, because the shared advertizing game only helps the media giants eat up the smaller guys.
One person who’s not happy is Armstrong Williams, the Black rightwing propagandist and hustler who calls himself a journalist. Williams owns two stations that are essentially extra channels for stations already owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, which is the largest operator of non-network affiliated stations in the country. Williams claims that Black people in Flint, Michigan, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, will suffer if he loses his stations there, since he is known to provide broadcast content that reflects a minority perspective. Now, that’s a joke! Armstrong Williams, whose mentor was South Carolina’s rabidly racist Sen. Strom Thurmond, has never uttered or written a word that was relevant to the hopes and dreams of most Black people. In political terms, Armstrong Williams most closely resembles the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained.
“The fact that the owner is Black doesn’t affect the stations’ broadcast schedules and program content one bit.”
But, more importantly, there is nothing on his TV stations that distinguishes them from any other corporate money machine. In Myrtle Beach, it’s a long day of Jerry Springer and People’s Court and Friends reruns, with news at 10 provided by a network owned by CBS and Warner Bros. In Michigan, his station is just another NBC affiliate, spewing the same bland corporate crap. The fact that the owner is Black doesn’t affect the stations’ broadcast schedules and program content one bit. It’s still garbage, of no socially redeeming value. Program-wise, it’s not even Black garbage.
Black people have no reason to be concerned about the survival of television stations that do not substantially serve their interests. It is true that Armstrong Williams has as much right as any white person to get rich from poisoning the airwaves – but that does not mean that we have to help him. And in fact, the airwaves still technically belong to the public. The government is obligated by law to ensure that the broadcast spectrum is put to uses that best serve the public. That means programming that is accountable to the public, including Black people.
There was a time when the FCC at least pretended to take public input seriously. The very fact that, two generations ago, the Black public could challenge the licenses of stations that ignored, abused or simply underserved them, created wondrous opportunities for intra-Black communications – opportunities that have been wiped out by corporate consolidation.
The FCC may well make an exception to its own joint advertizing ruling, on “diversity” grounds. And, that would be a victory – for Armstrong Williams. However, Black people as a whole will have won nothing, and lost a great deal.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.