If black Comcast subscribers wanted more black-oriented television, they will be glad to hear that this summer a new station called Aspire will join the ranks of BET, Centric, TV One, and Bounce TV. Basketball star Magic Johnson is working with the Atlanta-based Gospel Music Channel (GMC) to start a channel that, according to GMC vice-chairman Brad Siegel, is “100% targeted toward African-American viewers.” It will show documentaries, movies, comedies, and religious programs.
Mr. Johnson says Aspire “will be a network that encourages and challenges African-Americans to reach for their dreams,” adding that it “will celebrate our heritage, our groundbreaking achievements and the fearless talent that has shaped American culture.” It is one of ten independent cable networks Comcast agreed to add over the next eight years–and all of them must be owned or operated by non-whites. The deal was part of a shakedown Comcast agreed to when it sought FCC approval for its merger with NBC Universal—the first union of a cable company with a major broadcast network. Black Congresswoman Maxine Waters led the charge to ensure that the merger would include plenty of handouts for non-whites.
In a letter dated May 7, 2010, Congresswoman Waters wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking the commission to delay approval until after public hearings. The letter, cosigned by 68 congressmen, said, “As members of Congress, including many from the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, we are most interested in how the applicants to this merger will involve underserved communities and minorities in media programming and ownership opportunities.” The letter noted that something called the Hispanic Association of Creative Responsibility gave Comcast only 50 points out of 100 in a “diversity review.” Miss Waters then attached five pages of “diversity”-related questions for Comcast to answer for the public record.
This video sums up the tenor of the hearings that followed:
Comcast met with the leaders of non-white pressure groups to set up sweet-heart deals in exchange for support for the merger. It promised a $20 million venture-capital fund for non-white entrepreneurs in digital media, an advisory council for each racial group to oversee “diversity” giveaways, more contributions to non-white charities, and the 10 “diverse” networks. (See the formal memorandum of understanding with Asians, Hispanics, and blacks).
This wasn’t enough for Miss Waters. In a letter dated December 20, 2010, she wrote to Chairman Genachowski complaining that the memos of understanding were just “vague goals and nominal gestures” rather than binding commitments, and professed herself “alarmed” that Comcast-NBCU had not filed the “diversity” pledges as formal amendments to its application. She said she feared “yet another set of broken promises between communities of color and large corporations.”
The next month, the FCC published its 279-page agreement with Comcast, including the company’s “diversity” commitments, and noted that the commission would “condition grant of the Application on these commitments.” Comcast recently called its handouts program “voluntary,” but immense congressional pressure and FCC requirements tell a different story.
Comcast also promised more non-whites in news and programming on NBC Universal’s networks. Interestingly, Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network signed the memorandum for blacks, was made a host on the NBC Universal-owned cable news channel MSNBC less than a year after the Comcast merger, raising questions about a possible backroom deal.
Comcast’s first new channel for non-whites, Aspire, is not likely to be profitable. The Oprah Winfrey Network, which started in January 2011 with a similar black uplift theme, has yet to produce a popular show. Brad Adgate, Research Director at Horizon Media, says Aspire is “an expensive concession Comcast had to make. These are costly ventures. Throw in online video, and audiences are hard to come by.”
Aspire is not Magic Johnson’s first try at cable programming. In 1998, he hosted the eponymous “Magic Hour” late-night syndicated talk show. The L.A. Times says the show premiered “with great hoopla . . . only to be yanked less than two months later after harsh reviews and low ratings.” The show’s gospel-music intro seemed more fit for a televangelist than a hoop star:
Who besides Magic Johnson is cashing in? El Rey, a Hispanic station, will be led by Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez. BabyFirst Americas will be a project of Spanish-language TV exec Constantino Schwarz and will “offer Latino parents the ability to help their children integrate into American society, while maintaining a strong connection to their Latino heritage and bilingual communication.” REVOLT, a venture of rap music titan Sean “Diddy” Combs, will feature “uncut, raw, uncensored” music and news. Mr. Combs recently explained what REVOLT is all about:
Obviously, the beneficiaries of all this are not ghetto blacks or Hispanics or even the middle class. The people walking off with the swag are rich already. It would be hard to think of a more cynical get-richer-quicker scheme for non-white millionaires–or more pathetic passivity on the part of Comcast. Asians–who have a higher per capita income than whites–also have their snouts in the trough.
This is the kind of Third-World cronyism we can expect as the United States becomes a Third-World country–with the added twist that whitey gets a double dose of the shaft.