While White American were so concern when Bill Cosby, NBC’s biggest star of the 80’s, trying to buy the television network in the 1990’s, and some still feel Cosby’s current crisis is a conspiracy to destroy his legacy, the world never saw Conservative Commentator Armstrong Williams coming in 2015. Williams is now the largest black owner of TV stations in America, closing deals to acquire two new stations Friday, October 23.
Williams’ purchase of KVMY, the MyNet affiliate in Las Vegas, and WLYH, the CW affiliate in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has brought his total holdings to seven television stations, the majority of the mere 12 U.S. television stations, out of 2,119 nationwide, with black owners. Williams who was business manager for Republican presidential one-time front-runner Ben Carson, has managed to accomplished what the world feared Cosby would. Since he didn’t have the Hollywood stardom of Cosby, few knew or still know, of Williams growing media empire.
Williams now adds Largest African-American TV Station Owner, to his rich resume that includes political commentator, entrepreneur, author of a nationally syndicated conservative newspaper column, and host of a daily radio show and a nationally syndicated TV program called The Right Side with Armstrong Williams.
Howard Stirk Holdings LLC, a company owned by Mr. Williams, also comes forth as a model corporation for minorities in the media field. The company has employees mainly from minority groups.
“One of the things that we’re proud of is the fact that probably 75 percent of our workforce are minorities. We truly celebrate diversity,” said Marcus Mullings, vice president of Howard Stirk Holdings. “Almost 50 percent of that workforce is women. When you talk about the issue of black men not finding jobs, the issue of inequality, 55 percent of our work force is black men.”
Williams first went into television ownership in 2013, when he landed a sidecar deal that led to his acquisition of two stations. The two stations worked as his training ground as he focused on expanding his expire in the media industry. A dream in the African-American community and a nightmare to some others, what a big deal it would be for African-American owned networks.
In 1992, Cosby showed the bosses and critics what a big deal it really was when he made several bids to buy NBC. An actor buying a network? Clearly, many thought, this was the attack of the killer ego, a delusionist who thinks he can play with the big boys. “What you have to understand is, I wasn’t the only one,” Cosby explained back then. He even warned the world he was the only one with that mindframe “I was the only one as far as the press was concerned, and then finally they had to name the other partners. The excitement of it was this entertainer, who is an African-American, was out to try and raise money to run a network. And then it comes down to, ‘Can a black man run a network?’
Armstrong Williams without much fanfare and media hype is quietly showing in fact Black Men can run a TV Station.
In March 2015, BW chopped it up with Television Producer and Media Mogul Byron Allen who along with the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) dropped a $20 billion suit against Comcast, Al Sharpton and Time Warner Cable. BW interviewed the Chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios via telephone on the lack of Black Owned Media who called the voluntary diversity agreements that Comcast entered into at the time of the 2010 NBCUniversal acquisition as a sham, used to “facilitate its racist practices and policies in contracting.”
The Final Call reported in 2012, that Blacks own less than one percent of full power commercial television stations and less than three percent of commercial radio stations, yet make up nearly 14 percent of the total U.S. population. Stating multi-media consolidation by huge corporate conglomerates, lack of access to capital and advertisers that do not target Black and minority stations are a few challenges making it tough to get a foothold in ownership.
Whether written, broadcast, or spoken – the media is a powerful force that often shape the minds our society. It subconsciously impact the psychological development of black children, while influencing everyday decisions of black men & women.
Today, the black owned media space is almost nonexistent due to “corporate takeover” or partnership with mostly white owned companies. This adversely affects the perception of black people since often times we are misrepresented.
In an 2013 article, The Columbia Journalism Review stated ‘a vibrant black media and a more inclusive mainstream media should both be available to the public.’ There is a major need and importance to having more Black Owned Media, not just television station. In a 2011 article in Advertising Age Earl Grave the founder of Black Enterprise stated “There are definite advantages to publishing a magazine aimed at a black audience.”
“When I was first out selling Black Enterprise, I had people that would ask me, ‘What black business class?’ and they would ask me, ‘What black professionals?’ And I actually had people tell me in the very beginning that they didn’t want to associate their brand with the African-American market,” Graves recalls.
But he didn’t let that stop him, since then, Mr. Graves has built an impressive media operation. In addition to the magazine, the family business includes a book-publishing house (he wrote the best-seller “How to Succeed in Business Without Being White”), two syndicated TV shows and business and lifestyle events. He also co-founded a private-equity fund with Citigroup to invest in minority businesses.