Reported by Liku Zelleke
The first and only Black-owned public TV station is being sold off. According to reports, the Federal Communications Commission has initiated the auction process which will allow Howard University to sell off WHUT-TV, a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member station that is owned and operated by the university.
Wade Anderson, an alumnus of the university and the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, says the move to sell off the only Black-owned public TV station should be a wake-up call on media diversity, or rather the lack thereof.
In an article published on The Root, Anderson said the move would leave “the broadcast airwaves to be run almost exclusively by white men.”
“That’s not hyperbole. For years, the FCC has watched female and minority ownership of broadcast stations dwindle without much concern for the real-world implications of having our broadcast airwaves run almost exclusively by white men,” he wrote.
He said that the move comes after 12 years of court orders intended to address the problem and has now moved on to a stage where things are already being set into motion.
Anderson says the FCC, and not Howard, should take the blame for “selling the spectrum, which will likely go on to be used by wireless phone companies, earning hundreds of millions of dollars for the school and its students.”
The FCC’s move – which comes after a federal court appointed a mediator to ensure that the commission does something to address the diversity ownership issue – will have a significant effect on the African American communities’ ability to bring Black-relevant perspectives and stories to the fore.
Anderson says, “The FCC’s inaction comes at a significant cost for the black community’s prospects to include its perspectives and stories in the media. Out of 1,784 commercial broadcast television stations in this country, only seven are owned by African Americans. These rates are not much better for women or other people of color.”
This will affect the way Blacks are perceived by the community in general as the existing media “exaggerates black criminality, unemployment and poverty” which will have adverse effects as “these distortions have real-world effects on how people treat and view African Americans.”