Living in dangerous times is how Sherman Kizart of Kizart Media Partners described the current state of Black-owned media companies during a panel discussion, “Telecom: Minority Media Ownership: Can We Keep Hope Alive?” at the 41st Annual Conference of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund.
Blacks own less than one percent of full power commercial television stations and less than three percent of commercial radio stations, yet make up nearly 14 percent of the total U.S. population.
Multi-media consolidation by huge corporate conglomerates, lack of access to capital and advertisers that do not target Black and minority stations are a few challenges making it tough to get a foothold in ownership.
Mr. Kizart related the fate of Inner City Broadcasting, a New York-based company founded in the early 1970s that recently shut its doors.
At one time, it was the largest Black owner of radio stations nationwide, co-founded by the late Percy Sutton. The company was a founding member of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, which advocates for Black media ownership in television and radio.
“As of July 12 Inner City Broadcasting will not exist,” Mr. Kizart told conference attendees, during the July 13 session. “Why is Inner City Broadcasting gone? … Entities like Clear Channel didn’t do African American ownership a favor by selling Inner City broadcasting three markets for almost $200 million at 20 times cash flow. They did the same thing with a number of other different minority owners because we’re so desperate to have the opportunity to own our properties. At the beginning of consolidation the Telcom Act of ’96, where that consolidation train just steamrolled, the only way we could get those opportunities to buy those properties was from these major consolidators,” he explained. “When they sold it to us, they sold them to us at incredibly inflated prices, at prices where we could not service the debt and what is happening now? Those same entities, the banks and the others, are taking (stations) back and as of right now the second largest African American-owned broadcast company is no longer here,” said Mr. Kizart.
Read more: Starla Muhammad (The Final Call), Black Economic Development