Robert Johnson, who hopes to use a license-sharing arrangement with Ion Media to launch a new minority-oriented television service, is surprised at formal opposition coming from TV One, the cable wing of Urban specialist Radio One. The key to the Urban Television/Ion arrangement is FCC backing for must carry privileges for Urban, which would not displace Ion but would share broadcast licenses with Ion and use a digital side-channel to carry its programming simultaneously (along with other Ion offerings).
Johnson noted that back when Albert Liggins was trying to get TV One established, in competition with BET, which Johnson founded and was running at the time, Liggins argued that his new channel should receive compulsory cable coverage in all urban markets because one minority-owned cable channel wasn’t enough. BET is no longer owned by a minority, so Johnson says Liggins’ own argument applies to Urban Television now, as it did to TV One then.
Johnson says that there are some 500 majority-owned cable channels, compared to one and only one owned by African Americans, that being TV One. He further argued that Urban Television would not require any additional cable channel capacity beyond what it must dedicate to carrying the Ion programming that is already there, meaning there should be no danger of Urban bumping TV One off of any systems.
Johnson also wonders if Comcast, which owns a piece of TV One, is at least partly behind the TV One protest.
RBR/TVBR observation: Liggins has argued that Urban could have a devastating effect on TV One, which Johnson refuted with the carriage argument. We suspect what TV One is more concerned about is dilution of the audience and competition for the advertising base. It certainly isn’t a great time for anybody to get a new competitor. But is there ever a good time? The cable industry has ample reason to oppose the Ion/Urban arrangement, but the FCC has ample reason to support it, if feasible within the strictures of the regulations, on grounds of diversification of license ownership. So there are lots of reasons to choose your favorite side, get a hot dog and a beverage and watch this one unfold.