Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson, (L); David D. Smith, president and CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.; and commentator Armstrong Williams in July at Smith's home in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Courtesy of Armstrong Williams

To Please Critics, Sinclair Retreats on Pledge to Sell

Armstrong Williams, the conservative commentator and entrepreneur, said Friday that he is "in jeopardy of losing all my [television] stations" in the wake of a decision by Sinclair Broadcasting Corp., his business partner and benefactor, to put on the open market stations it had planned to sell to Williams.


Should that happen, the number of television stations owned by African Americans, numbering less than a handful, would dwindle to two of the nation's 1,348 full-power commercial stations, by most counts.

As Jennifer Saba reported for Reuters on Thursday, "Sinclair Broadcast Group proposed on Thursday to sell some Allbritton TV stations it agreed to acquire in a deal last July to meet requirements of broadcasting regulators about companies sharing advertising and sales staff across competing stations."

Saba wrote of the Sinclair revision, "Sinclair proposed the structure as the Federal Communications Commission readies to vote on March 31 on new rules that would prohibit broadcast companies from controlling more than two TV stations in a market by sharing advertising sales staff.


"The new rules would count a broadcaster as having ownership interest in any stations where that owner sells 15 percent or more of advertising. . . ."

Last year, Williams acquired WEYI-TV, an NBC affiliate in the Flint/Saginaw/Bay City/Midland, Mich., market, ranked No. 67, and WWMB-TV, a CW affiliate in market 103 in the Myrtle Beach/Florence, S.C., market, near Williams's hometown of Marion, S.C.

In July, when Allbritton Communications announced that it had agreed to sell its seven television stations to Sinclair for $985 million, Williams said there was "no doubt" that he planned to buy WMMP-TV in Charleston, S.C., his home state, from Sinclair. Later, Williams added WHP, the CBS affiliate in Harrisburg, Pa.


Since then, the five-member FCC has installed a new chairman, Tom Wheeler, who declared that "our rules protecting competition, diversity and localism have been circumvented" by joint sales agreements — "arrangements in which one station sells advertising time for another station in the same market. In more than two-thirds of JSA transactions, one station sold 100 percent of the advertising time of the other."

He added, "JSAs are the centerpiece of what's known as the 'sidecar' business model, which also includes Shared Services Agreements (SSAs) and special financial arrangements. Under SSAs, stations pool resources such as news reporters or traffic helicopters," Wheeler wrote in a blog posting March 6.

Williams has such a "sidecar" agreement with Sinclair. Activist media groups such as Free Press have opposed such agreements. Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, has written that the shared services agreements have led to fewer jobs for journalists as newsrooms are combined.


"When there are fewer newsrooms, jobs are cut, normally leaving fewer opportunities for all journalists to find work. Viewers for the different stations get the same news delivered by the same people, limiting the opportunity to hear different viewpoints. For those who work in these newly 'shared' newsrooms, there is more work and less time for in-depth or investigative reporting," Butler wrote, also on March 6.

Williams contends, however, that such agreements are "the only vehicle for any chance of diversity or any kind of minority ownership. You cannot get financing," he told Journal-isms by telephone. "If I were to buy these stations [by myself], in three months, I would be out of business." A generator broke at his Myrtle Beach station, Williams said, and it cost him $400,000.

On Thursday, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai estimated that 43 percent of female-owned full-power commercial television stations currently are parties to JSAs and that 75 percent of African American-owned stations were.


"Before we vote to restrict the use of JSAs, the Commission should conduct a formal study to evaluate whether these figures are accurate and how any action on our part would impact diversity in broadcast ownership," Pai wrote.

The National Association of Broadcasters on Thursday proposed a compromise that would allow some joint sales agreements to continue.

"The proposal essentially asks the FCC to carve out an exemption from the blanket ban on JSAs that the agency is widely expected to adopt as soon as March 31," Doug Halonen reported for TVNewsCheck.


"The exemption would protect JSAs that broadcasters can show provide public interest benefits and meet a series of specific tests intended to limit one station from using a sharing agreement to control one or more additional TV stations in the same market."

Among the benefits: "Diversity of ownership opportunities for new entrants in broadcasting, including women and minorities" and "Additional programming for niche or traditionally underserved audiences, including racial and ethnic minorities, speakers of foreign languages, children, religious [groups] and senior citizens."

"I think the NAB is spot on," Williams told Journal-isms.

Wheeler's spokeswoman, Maria Kirby, legal adviser for media, consumer,
governmental affairs and enforcement, did not respond to inquiries Friday about the FCC chairman's position or whether Williams was correct in stating that Wheeler's proposal would "unwind" what was already in place, such as the two stations Williams already operates.


John Eggerton reported a week ago in Broadcasting & Cable that Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, considered the swing vote on the issue, was "looking for a way to balance cracking down on bad actors who use the rules to skirt ownership limits and fostering sharing agreements that can boost diversity, particularly in rural markets where joint ownership of stations is disallowed but the need for some financial help is often greatest."

He quoted "sources familiar with conversations between Clyburn and National Association of Broadcasters executives."

The existing black-owned full-power commercial television stations are WLOO-TV in Jackson, Miss., owned by historically African American Tougaloo College, and WJYS-TV in Hammond, Ind., in the Chicago market and owned by Jovon Broadcasting. Free Press does not count Williams's stations, calling him the "nominal" owner. It also rejects his argument for keeping them.


"In a meeting last week, Armstrong Williams told FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and her chief of staff that JSAs and SSAs were the only means of boosting minority ownership," Lauren Wilson wrote for Free Press last week.

"That's just false. If Sinclair or any other broadcaster has any interest in helping people of color get started in the news business, it's free to help them buy and operate stations in any number of markets where the outcome would not be an end run around the ownership rules. But they're not doing that. Such an investment would be unwise given the diminished chances a small owner has of surviving.

"Free Press' research has shown that as markets become more concentrated, minority ownership plummets. When stations consolidate and markets become more concentrated, barriers to entry become even higher. Also, existing singleton and small-group owners are less able to compete for advertising and programming contracts. These effects create immense pressure on smaller owners to exit the market.


"And this cycle disproportionately impacts minority owners. Thanks to a lack of wealth, they're far more likely to own just a single station in comparison to their white male and corporate counterparts."

John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable: Free Press' Wilson Apologizes for Pai Tweet

David Lieberman, Deadline Hollywood: Are Broadcasters or the FCC to Blame for Problems With TV Localism And Diversity?


The Wall Street Transcript: [Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.] Proposes Restructuring of Allbritton Transaction

Sue Wilson, OpEdNews: The FCC — Actually Enforcing Its Own Rules?

Paul Wyche, Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Ind.: FCC moves could affect deal to sell 2 TV stations


NABJ Leader "Concerned" About Media General-LIN Merger

"Media General said on Friday that it would acquire LIN Media for $1.6 billion in a cash and stock deal that will create the second-largest local television broadcasting company," David Gelles reported Friday in the New York Times.

"LIN Media shareholders will receive about $27.82 a share, about a 28 percent premium.


"Both Media General and LIN Media operate local television stations that act as affiliates to the big broadcast networks like ABC, CBS and NBC.

"The combined company will own 74 stations in 46 markets and reach 26.5 million households, or 23 percent of the market in the United States. It will rank behind only Sinclair Broadcast Group in terms of number of stations operated. . . ."

Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms by telephone that LIN "has been proactive with NABJ" and had hired a news manager as a result of the NABJ convention last summer near Orlando, Fla. He said, however, that in some cities, LIN and Media General own competing stations, and he raised the possibility that one newsroom might shut down if the merger goes forward.


Butler added by e-mail, "In the 2012 NABJ Census, between the two companies there were 143 managers at 32 stations. Only eight were people of color, including one news director and one assistant news director. Both companies own more stations now but, if the merger is approved, I would be concerned about the impact on diversity of management—and staff—going forward."

With 77% Approval, Blacks Are Biggest Backers of ACA

"The 2010 health care law is politically divisive, but the differences go well beyond party affiliation. Views of the law continue to vary widely across racial and ethnic groups," the Pew Research Center reported on Thursday. "By nearly two-to-one (62%-33%) more whites disapprove than approve of the law. By contrast, 77% of blacks approve of the law, while just 18% disapprove.


"Hispanics are evenly divided: 47% approve of the law, while 47% disapprove. Over most of the past four years, Hispanics have offered more support than opposition for the health care law. As recently as September, 2013, 61% of Hispanics approved of the law. Support for the ACA among Hispanics fell sharply in October of 2013 (to 47%) and has yet to recover.

"Most men disapprove of the law (57%) while 39% say they approve. Women are more closely divided with 44% saying they approve and 50% saying they disapprove.

"People younger than 30 do not view the law as negatively as do older Americans. About as many young people approve (50%) as disapprove (47%) of the health care law. Among older age groups, majorities disapprove. That marks a change from December, when younger people had about the same view of the health care law as older adults. . . .


"College graduates take a more positive view of the law (50% approve, 47% disapprove) than those with only some college experience (40% approve, 54% disapprove) and those with no college experience (36% approve, 57% disapprove).

"Those with family incomes of $30,000 a year or less are as likely to approve (45%) as disapprove (47%) of the health care law. By contrast, majorities of those in more affluent households disapprove of the law. . . .

"There are differences in views of the ACA between whites who have graduated from college and those who have not.


"Whites without a college degree disapprove of the health care law by a lopsided 66%-27% margin. By contrast, white college graduates are much more divided (51% disapprove, 46% approve), and among white women with college degrees, slightly more approve than disapprove (51% vs. 46%). White college men oppose the ACA, 57%-41%. . . ."

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Republicans Place the Wrong Bet (March 5)

Fox News Latino from Associated Press: Uninsured Across Demographic Scale Benefit From Obamacare but Hispanics Still Lagging (March 10)


Erica Goode, New York Times: Little-Known Health Act Fact: Prison Inmates Are Signing Up (March 9)

Rick Horowitz, Huffington Post: You're Young. You're Healthy. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Don’t take the risk young people — sign up for Obama’s health care plan


Charles Ornstein, ProPublica: During Final Obamacare Push, Conservative Author Sees Little to Celebrate

Patrick Tutwiler, Fishbowl DC: 'Between Two Ferns' Gives Obamacare a Social Boost (March 12)

Video Games Said to Reflect Media View of Blacks as Violent

"What happens when white video game players see themselves as black characters in a violent game?" Ohio State University asked Friday in a news release.


"A new study suggests some disturbing answers: It makes the white players act more aggressively after the game is over, have stronger explicit negative attitudes toward blacks and display stronger implicit attitudes linking blacks to weapons.

"These results are the first to link avatar race in violent video games to later aggression," said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

"And it raises another troubling impact that violent video games can have on players," he said.


The release also said, "The media have the power to perpetuate the stereotype that blacks are violent, and this is certainly seen in video games.

"This violent stereotype may be more prevalent in video games than in any other form of media because being a black character in a video game is almost synonymous with being a violent character.. . ."

Meanwhile, "Love life? Love guns?," the closing forum Friday at Hampton University's 36th Conference on the Black Family, presented the face, numbers and psychological toll of gun violence, Wayne Dawkins wrote Friday


"Josh Horowitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence cited the numbers: Of 30,000 American firearms deaths on average annually, 12,000 of them were murders, and, of those homicides, 48 percent of the victims were African-Americans," Dawkins wrote.

"Candace Wallace, a Hampton University psychology professor, said mass media content — reality TV shows particularly – reinforce perceptions that black life is cheap. Wallace also cited Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] as a symptom prevalent in violent urban areas just as in battle zones.' "

However, ABC News correspondent Byron Pitts, the moderator, "urged the audience to avoid the phrase 'black on black' violence. Statistically, violence in America, said Pitts, often involves similar people living in close proximity, whether it is 'white on white, black on black or midget on midget.' "


Austin Bogues, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.: Hampton University forum focuses on how media portrays blacks in news, sports

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Black Pathology and the Closing of the Progressive Mind

Gene Demby, NPR "Code Switch": 'Street Fighter II': Most Racist Nostalgic Video Game Ever? 


NPR Ombudsman Urges That Use of 'Redskins' Be Avoided 

The name of the Washington NFL team — the Redskins — "should be avoided in Web headlines and used only infrequently in stories," Edward Schumacher-Matos, the NPR ombudsman, recommended on Tuesday.

"NPR editors and sports reporters this past season met on the issue and decided to continue to use the team's name in news reports, editors told me," Schumacher-Matos wrote. " 'Since the name of the team is the Washington Redskins, we use that in our reporting,' Deputy Managing Editor Chuck Holmes said. But, he added, 'we also continue to cover issues prompted by the name.'


"And so it is that since the beginning of last year, 23 NPR segments used the name of the team without comment, and another 14 either focused on the name dispute or mentioned it in passing. Hourly newscasts were not counted."

The ombudsman continued, "Each of us will answer and weigh the questions in our own way, but my own conclusion based on the investigation that follows is that NPR should begin to purposefully disassociate itself from using the Redskins or the Washington Redskins on air and online.

"The name should be avoided in Web headlines and used only infrequently in stories. Some news stories—not all—should note the name dispute in passing. Other features and analytical stories should continue to directly focus on the dispute and the use of Indian mascots by other teams, as was done this past season. Scott Simon, who has some leeway as a long-time host who also does commentaries, should be left to do what he is doing, as a major voice inside NPR reflecting a Native American view."


Simon, who hosts NPR’s "Weekend Edition Saturday,” has referred to "the Washington football club whose name I refuse to utter."

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Kill Chief Wahoo if you must but don't let him die in vain (March 9)

Students Say TMZ Insults Mexicans, Community Colleges

"When Miss Mexico and former Mt. SAC student Beatriz Cazares, 27, walked into the spotlights and microphones of the press in Hollywood, she greeted them with grace, style and enthusiasm.


"Little did she know that entertainment news show TMZ would not only ridicule her for being a Mexican without an accent, but would also go on to bash her for attending Mt. SAC Community College and pursuing a community college education,", a publication of journalism students at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., reported Thursday.

The article also said: "This is not the first time TMZ has been accused of racism. Kim Kardashian recently called out TMZ for being racist against her and Kanye West as an interracial couple. In 2012, TMZ interviewed the Mexican rock group Mana and asked them a racist question, 'American rock bands get underwear thrown at them; do you get underwear thrown at you or Tapatio packets?' "

Sheila Johnson Wants Students to Watch Public Affairs

BET co-founder and entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson challenged Hampton University students to watch more public affairs and social issues shows when she spoke Wednesday during the annual Conference on the Black Family at the school, Austin Bogues reported Wednesday for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.


"Advertisers go where the most eyeballs are," Johnson said.

Bogues also wrote, "Johnson contrasted the content on black media networks with [that on] Hispanic-owned ones.

" 'You see sitcoms and soap operas but they also have news, hard-hitting news, on the issues that matter,' she said.


" 'As a co-founder of BET, I know why this isn't happening. Advertisers don't buy our programming unless it's music videos or comedy,' she said. 'That's the only way we can pay our bills. We're really caught between a rock and a hard place.'

Bogues added, "To change the trend, Johnson said it was important for African-Americans to diversify their media consumption, including looking at more programs that deal with public affairs and social issues."

For March 10-16, Nielsen reported that the top 10 programs on broadcast television among African Americans were, in order, "Scandal," "Resurrection," "Grey's Anatomy," "Person of Interest," "American Idol (Wednesday)," "The Voice," "Blue Bloods," "NCIS: Los Angeles," "Criminal Minds" and "Chicago PD."


For Hispanics that week, the top five positions were held by the telenovela "Que Vida Me Robo," on Tuesday, Wednesday, Monday, Thursday and Friday; followed by the telenovela "Que Pobres Tan Ricos" on Wednesday, Friday and Thursday; the reality show "Nuestra Belleza" on Sunday; and the Monday edition of "Que Pobres Tan Ricos." All are on Univision.

When all viewers are counted, the top 10 were: "The Big Bang Theory," "The Voice"(Tuesday); "The Voice," "Blue Bloods," "60 Minutes," "NCIS," "Bachelor: After Final Rose," "Criminal Minds," "Resurrection" and "CSI."

Short Takes

"What? Sanity hits March Madness?" Derrick Z. Jackson asked Tuesday in the Boston Globe. "The average graduation rate for black players on the 68 men's teams in the Division 1 tournament is a record 65 percent. To understand what a leap that is, at least in the 18 years I have been following college football grad rates and the 17 I have following basketball's, that percentage represents a sharp rise up from 51 percent in 2008 and 35 percent in 2003. . . ."


"Bonuses for the top echelon at Radio One—$1.5 million for CEO Alfred Liggins, $500,000 for founder Cathy Hughes," Tom Taylor wrote Thursday for his Tom Taylor Now site. "That's just the bonus, not the total compensation, and it represents a $500,000 jump for Liggins over the previous year. The board reasons that Liggins is now shouldering the direct CEO load at the TV One cable channel—and it also cites the stock price rise from 75 cents on January 2, 2013 to $3.79 a share at year-end. . . ."

David Steinberg, president of Unity: Journalists for Diversity, writing about this month's Diversity Caucus bringing together leaders representing more than 50 media and journalism academic organizations, said the conference showed, "News leaders value the chance to focus on two key areas of diversity in journalism: our newsrooms' staffing and improving the coverage of diverse communities." Writing for the Poynter Institute on Monday, Steinberg also said "UNITY: Journalists for Diversity has identified some specific actions that we can take immediately to assist our media partners, beginning with helping organizations bring diverse voices to discussions at industry conferences and workshops in the coming months. . . ."

"Adrian Carrasquillo, who joined BuzzFeed as a breaking news reporter less than a year ago, has been promoted to the newly created position of Editor of Latino Coverage for the social news and entertainment website," Veronica VillafaĂąe reported Friday on her Media Moves site.


"Dr. Mallika Marshall is returning to WBZ-TV News as Medical Reporter," the Boston CBS affiliate announced Thursday. Marshall, daughter of former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson and cum laude graduate of Harvard College, "has nearly 15 years of media experience including serving as HealthWatch Anchor at WBZ-TV News for ten years beginning in 2000." She serves on staff at Harvard Medical School and practices at the Massachusetts General Hospital Chelsea Urgent Care Clinic and its Revere Health Center.

"As print advertising revenue erodes for the consumer magazine industry as a whole, there are titles finding success catering to pockets of readers. Epicurean, city and regional and high-end luxury are a few of the most-commonly cited—the LGBT segment falls into that group as well," Michael Rondon reported Thursday for folio: "LGBT advertising spend rose 18.2 percent to $381 million last year, with circulation jumping 15.1 percent to 2.7 million, according to a study released by Rivendell Media, an ad agency serving the market, this week. . . ."

"With news publications increasingly charging for their once-free Web sites and apps, they face a critical question: Will readers pay for digital content? Now, one Internet start-up has put a twist on that question: Will readers pay for a journalist?" Sydney Ember reported Wednesday in the New York Times. Ember also wrote, "Beacon has a straightforward business model. A reader funds a writer for $5 a month and in return gets access to all of the content on the site. Since it went live five months ago, the site has signed up more than 100 writers and 'more than several thousand' subscribers," Adrian Sanders, one of Beacon’s co-founders, said. "Writers receive 70 percent of their subscription revenue each month, with another portion going toward a bonus pool paid out to those who wrote the most recommended stories. The company keeps the rest. . . ."


"ABC's 20/20 host Elizabeth Vargas has signed to write a memoir about her struggle with alcoholism, Grand Central Publishing announced," Andy Lewis reported Thursday for the Hollywood Reporter. "The untitled book will be published in spring 2016. . . ."

S. Mitra Kalita, ideas editor at Quartz, is urging parents not to lobby for their children to receive summer internships. "I am begging you to restrain yourself," she wrote Thursday. "Especially if you are a liberal who purports to care about inequality in this country. Or a conservative who supports the notion of meritocracy. Or a parent who wants a child to ultimately achieve confidence and independence. It is the wrong way to hire. . . ."

"Journalists investigating the recent slaying of one of their colleagues said Wednesday that they have found a slew of mistakes, omissions and bad policing that undermine government claims that the man was killed as part of a personal dispute," Tracy Wilkinson reported Wednesday from Mexico City for the Los Angeles Times. "Gregorio Jimenez, a prolific freelance journalist kidnapped and found dead last month, 'was without a doubt killed because of his work: to inform,' Maria Idalia Gomez, a representative of the Inter-American Press Assn. and participant in the inquiry, said at a news conference. . . ."


Randal Archibold, the New York Times bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, spoke before journalism and Chicano and Latin American studies students at Fresno State University in California on Thursday, Nadia Pearl reported for the Collegian, a student publication. " 'I think the ones that are really in danger, the real heroes of journalism, are the Mexican journalists who suffer a great deal more,' Archibold said. 'Many stay on despite dealing with the death threats because they believe in a brighter future for the country, and, again, the only way to change it is by exposing these issues.' Archibold said drug cartels should 'think twice' before threatening an American journalist in the same way. 'Harming an American journalist would bring such tremendous response and heat,' he said. 'These are practical business-minded people who run the cartels. They don't want interruptions to their products.' . . ." 

"Shocked colleagues of Sardar Ahmad, the senior reporter in AFP's Kabul bureau, Friday mourned the loss of a charming and talented journalist with a deep, nuanced understanding of Afghanistan's wrenching conflict," Agence France-Presse reported. "Ahmad, 40, was shot dead along with his wife Humaira and two of their three children—a girl and boy—when gunmen attacked the Serena hotel in the Afghan capital on Thursday evening. . . ."

"Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan promised on Wednesday to improve journalists' safety and freedom to work, saying his government would investigate targeted violence, ease visa and travel restrictions, and immediately review the blacklisting of The New York Times's Pakistan bureau chief, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists advocacy group," Douglas Schorzman reported Wednesday for the Times.


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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.