Minority groups back innovative Ion/Urban deal


The proposal for Ion Media to sell a co-licensee stake in its digital broadcast licenses to Urban Television has received the enthusiastic backing of a consortium of civil rights and minority entrepreneurial groups. They weighed in following the FCC’s request for comment on the matter. Robert Johnson’s RLJ Companies is behind Urban. His group would create a new program service operating on Ion digital side channels on its 42 television stations; the pair want FCC assurance that Urban will have must-carry rights on MVPDs. “Never did we dream that in our lifetimes we might have an opportunity to witness this, the birth of the nation’s first over-the-air African American television network,” they said.

They continued, “Urban certainly has proven the Commission correct when the agency observed that ‘the most potent sources of innovation often arise not from incumbents but from new entrants.’ Consider not only the innovativeness, but the elegance and uniqueness of what Urban is proposing. Urban will use the multiplex capabilities available through DTV technology – the very attribute the Commission always hoped would justify its decision to give incumbents DTV spectrum – to create the 42 television stations that will form the backbone of Urban’s new network.”

The groups involved in the filing include Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association; International Black Broadcasters Association; Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Minority Media and Telecommunications Council; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; National Association of Black Journalists; National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters; National Bar Association; National Urban League; Rainbow PUSH Coalition; and  Video Access Alliance.

RBR/TVBR observation: This is really a brilliant proposal, that would have an instantaneous and measurable impact on the minority television ownership level. But cable is just bound to hate it, or so we believe – they will want nothing to do with side channel must carry under any circumstances. Stay tuned.