WSJ: Eliminate JSAs, Eliminate Black Ownership

The FCC's wish to crack down on shared services agreements among TV stations will eliminate the lone black individual in America who owns a TV station, says Fox News analyst Juan Williams in today's Wall Street Journal.

Williams says there are all of three black-owned commercial TV stations in the nation--Armstrong Williams' outlets in Flint and Myrtle Beach, and the Tougaloo College-owned station in Jackson, Mississippi. Altering the SSA rules--supposedly to promote diversity, notes Williams--will accelerate the decreasing rate of black ownership, which stood at 21 stations a decade ago.

He writes:

The black-owned stations simply lack the economic scale to get adequate advertising rates to pay their bills or even buy the station. For example, the bank that lent Mr. Williams $50 million to buy his stations did so with the understanding that he had the agreement with Sinclair, the much bigger firm.

Williams gives Sinclair credit for working alongside him.

David Smith, the owner of Sinclair Broadcasting—currently the largest owner of independent broadcast stations in the U.S.—makes no apologies for his deal with Mr. Williams. 'We are in this to make money,' he told me. Sinclair draws some profit from the smaller, minority-owned stations, but 70% of the revenue goes to the smaller stations. The fact that Sinclair sold properties to Armstrong Williams, a successful, politically conservative media personality, should be a plus—a rare gesture of racial inclusion.

Williams says The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters--it's hard to imagine what the association's meetings look like with so few black owners--has reversed course on its JSA stance to keep black ownership alive.

FCC commissioner Ajit Pai continues to push back on any effort to change the current JSA rules, says my colleague John Eggerton.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.