Back to IndieWire

The Number Of Black Owned Full Power TV Stations Dropped To Zero In 2013

The Number Of Black Owned Full Power TV Stations Dropped To Zero In 2013

Among
everything that happened last year, there was one major newsworthy item that was completely overlooked by the media: the sad statistic that there are no longer any black-owned, full power TV station in the United
States.

According to
the New Pittsburgh Courier, which reported the story earlier this week, there
were some 18 black-owned stations in
2006, which represented 1.3% of all TV stations. That number
dropped down to just five last year.
And in 2013, those five no longer existed, all being bought up by larger media
companies.

The reason
for this sorry situation started back during the late 1990s, when “Congress
and the Federal Communications Commission allowed massive consolidation in the
broadcasting industry. This policy shift crowded out existing owners of color
and ensured that it would be nearly impossible for new owners to access the
public airwaves…

One of the
last few remaining black-owned full power stations, Roberts Broadcasting – founded by the siblings Michael and Steve Roberts – recently announced a deal to sell its
three remaining full power TV stations to ION
Media Networks
for nearly $8
million
.

The reason
for the sale was due to the broadcasting company declaring bankruptcy in 2011, which stemmed primarily from Viacom’s
decision to shut down the UPN network,
which Roberts was affiliated with, due to UPN’s focus on black programming.

In late
October, the Sinclair Broadcast Group
bought up a Fox affiliate in Portland,
Maine, from a company headed by Charles
Glover
, a former musician turned
broadcaster. And that same month, the black owned Access.1 Communications sold off its Atlantic
City NBC
station to Locus Point
Networks
.

And as the
article points out, it’s ironic that this dismal state of black-owned broadcast
ownership should occur during the administration of the country’s first black
president, who even once pledged to encourage diversity in the ownership of
broadcast media.

As the
article states: Media consolidation has made it harder for people of color to own
broadcast stations because it raises entry barriers for small owners.
Concentration makes it harder for any small owner to compete, and the few
non-white broadcast licensees we have are far more likely to be small owners
who control just a handful of stations or a single broadcast outlet.

However, there
is one small ray of hope; and that’s regarding cheaper to buy and own low power
TV stations, which serve smaller areas than more expensive full power TV
stations.

Though they
lack guaranteed carriage by cable and satellite providers, currently some 15% of those low power stations are owned by people of power, and they do provide an opportunity for black
owners to get a foothold in an industry that has systematically cut them off.

However, once again, this small ray of hope might dim with the prospect of the auction of cellphone
companies, which could drive out the owners of these low-power TV stations as well.

The FCC is
preparing to conduct that incentive auction in the next year or two, and buyers
have been buying up both low and full power TV stations in an effort to cash in
on the potential auction of those companies.

As a result,
station owners are being forced to sell, since their creditors are more interested in pocketing a potential huge
financial windfall, than serving the community and already low power TV station
owners, and getting out of the business

A very sad state
of affairs indeed .

This Article is related to: Television and tagged ,