Despite many obstacles, National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters Executive Director Jim Winston is confident that improving the diversity of ownership of America’s airwaves is an achievable goal – and he has some ideas as to how to go about it. Meanwhile, NABOB members are expressing optimism about business prospects for 2013.
Current company: National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Inc.
Position: Executive Director and General Counsel
Location: Washington, DC
Also: Partner in the law firm of: Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, LLP, Washington, DC, where I specialize in the representation of telecommunications clients.
Place of Birth: Pittsburgh, PA
Date of Birth: August 24th.
Personal info: wife: Deborah Arrindell; children: Zahra Winston, Adrienne Winston, Brandon Arrindell, Gabrianne Williams.
College: University of Pennsylvania, B.S.E.E.; Harvard Law School, J.D.
Favorite band or artist: Smokey Robinson
Favorite movies: Devil in a Blue Dress, starring Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle
Favorite books: Authors: Scott Turow, Walter Mosley, Stephen Ambrose
Sports Team Preferences: Pittsburgh Steelers, I am a passionate fan.
Hobbies/Passions: Fishing, reading
Causes/Charities: NABOB Telecommunications Education and Management Foundation, 501(c)(3); The Media Sales Institute at Florida A&M University.
1. How did you get started in the business?
I was working for a corporate law department, when a friend at the FCC asked me if I would like to apply for a job as Commissioner Robert E. Lee’s Legal Advisor on common carrier matters. I did. Commissioner Lee hired me, and my love affair with the telecommunications industry began. After leaving the FCC and entering into private practice, I met a number of the members of NABOB, and they eventually hired me as their Executive Director in 1982.
2. How is 2013 looking from a business standpoint?
The broadcast industry appears to be working its way out of the devastating effects of the Great Recession. NABOB’s members seem fairly optimistic about steady improvement in 2013.
3. What’s your take on the Nielsen acquisition of Arbitron?
We at NABOB were pleased to hear about the planned merger of Nielsen and Arbitron. NABOB has a good relationship with both companies, and the combination of the companies could provide better and more extensive audience measurement benefits to both the television and radio industries. We are concerned that such mergers often result in rate increases to customers, and we would not want to see that happen. Therefore, we are cautiously optimistic that this will be good news for the television and radio industries.
4. What are the prospects of getting Congress to reinstate the minority tax certificate program for broadcast transactions?
The minority tax certificate was a great policy, because it produced a win-win situation. The seller received a tax deferral, and the buyer received an opportunity to buy a property that might not have been offered to him. It was the largest contributor to the growth of minority broadcast ownership between 1978 and 1995. A coalition of companies is talking about making another effort to restore it in this Congress. I believe we can get it reinstated if we can educate members of Congress who don’t understand its value.
5. The goal of achieving parity between broadcast license ownership and minority population levels seems unattainable – what kind of percentages and time frames would be realistic goals?
I am an eternal optimist, so I always believe that parity is possible. The biggest challenge facing the members of NABOB is the lack of access to capital. When the banks stopped lending to broadcasters during the Great Recession, we lost some major NABOB members who went into bankruptcy, because they could not refinance their bank debt.
The government should help establish capital funds, as it did with the Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Company program, to provide an important source of equity capital for minority entrepreneurs. We also need the telecommunications industry to develop an investment fund, similar to the former Quetzal Fund, designed to provide equity capital for minority entrepreneurs in the telecommunications industry. I believe these kinds of access to capital programs, along with a properly reinstated minority tax certificate, could lead us toward parity.