TV One has one thought about the launch of media mogul and business heavyweight Bob Johnson’s new network, Urban Television – they don’t like it. Officials from the network, which targets an African-American audience, testified before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that Johnson’s joint venture with Ion Media could cause TV One to get the boot on many cable systems.
Johnson is seeking permission from the FCC to share time on 42 stations owned by Ion Media Network, making it possible for Urban Television to air 24-hours-a-day on the same frequency. The new network will focus on news and social issues from the African-American perspective.
Urban Television is also facing opposition from another top dog in the industry: the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.
“In short, though customed in sheep’s clothing of a harmless “share-time” agreement, this is the wolf of multicast must-carry, twice rejected soundly by the FCC after many years of extensive consideration and vigorous debate,” the organization said in a petition filed with the FCC.
Could TV One be the pot calling the kettle black? The network is itself a joint venture between Comcast and Radio One, making it a lock to be carried in all households that subscribe to the cable service. In response, Bob Johnson sent a lengthy letter to TV One CEO Alfred Liggins III, calling his accusations unfounded and hypocritical:
“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,” the billionaire wrote.
Not everyone is hating on Johnson’s new network. At the end of 2008, the mogul held a luncheon with several prominent African-American media associations and organizations to garner support for Urban Television. The proposal was met with positive response. The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) President Barbara Ciara, whose organization was in attendance told Journal-Isms, “We’re trying to expand the footprint of African-American ownership.”
Johnson may just have a point. While about 13 percent of the U.S. population is Black, only one TV network is minority-owned. And hey, in a nation where diversity is on the rise, and issues pertaining to African Americans are becoming of interest to the general population, why can’t we have a bit more competition on TV? We already know who the winner will be.