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WUSA: Viacom, D.C. Battle Over BET Land

WUSA-TV Washington is reporting that Viacom and the City of Washington, D.C., are in a legal dispute over land the city leased to BET founder Bob Johnson back in 1992 as incentive for him to base the cable net in the city.

Johnson got the land for a token payment of $100 per year for almost seven acres that became the BET campus, but Viacom, which bought the channel in 2000 and eventually moved BET to New York and L.A., reportedly pays $300,000 per year for lease of the land, which the mayor said is well below the market rate in "the millions."

Viacom wants to turn the lease over to a developer while the city wants the land back.

According to WUSA, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser said the land lease was contingent on the company remaining in D.C. as part of an economic development agreement.

A Viacom spokesperson was not available for comment at press time. 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.