The Feds Target a Black TV Station Owner

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[Commentary] How many black people own a broadcast television station in the United States? The answer is one: Armstrong Williams. I know this because he's a friend.

So imagine my surprise when I heard that the Federal Communications Commission is currently considering pulling the financial rug from under him by changing its regulations to -- get this -- promote diversity.

The reason for the proposed rules shift is that Williams's two television stations operate under a so-called sidecar agreement with a larger broadcast company. Sinclair Broadcasting the larger, white-owned firm, leverages its clout in the market to get better deals from advertisers for the two stations in return for a percentage of Williams' revenues.

This arrangement is not a token deal. Similar agreements are common in the television industry. The difference is that typically all the players are white. Nevertheless, the FCC is proposing new restrictions that would make it harder for broadcast companies to control two stations operating in the same market.The government is concerned that the large broadcast companies are using these sales and services agreements with smaller owners to circumvent current rules intended to create diversity of broadcast property ownership. But without these agreements, there would be no black owners because of "the realities of the current marketplace," says Jane Mago, general counsel of the National Association of Broadcasters.

My suspicion is that liberals at the FCC who claim to be interested in promoting diverse broadcast ownership lose interest if the owner is a conservative like Armstrong Williams. They want diversity -- but not of the political kind.

[Williams is a political analyst for Fox News and a columnist for the Hill]

[March 10]

The Feds Target a Black TV Station Owner