by Alton H. Maddox, Jr.
A small group of Blacks from the tri-sate area met at the Cotton Club after we had learned not only of a major stroke that had afflicted Gil Noble but also the change of name of “Like It Is” and also its format. We smelled a rat. This was last October. This past April, we were belatedly told of the demise of “Open Line” and “Week-in-Review” on KISS-FM.
As a result of legal research, we found out that the controlling legal case on public participation at the FCC is United Church of Christ v. FCC. In 1966, the United Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the public could participate in FCC proceedings only through well-qualified media rights organizations. This was a breakthrough. We have set out to establish a media rights organization for Blacks which meets this FCC criteria.
This media rights organization must exceed the criteria of a civil rights organization or a “silver rights” organization. Of course, public affairs programming should, at least, complement the civil rights missions of Blacks. Medgar Evers made this point in Mississippi in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Censorship was the culprit.
Those persons who were listeners of “Open Line” and “Week-in-Review” on KISS-FM should be heard on the issue of KISS-FM leasing its airwaves to ESPN to accommodate Spanish sports programming to the detriment of its Black listeners. Leasing rather than a sale is being employed by KISS-FM to circumvent its public interest responsibilities.
Under the Communications Act of 1934, the public, and not a commercial enterprise, owns the airwaves. Thus, a commercial enterprise may not own the airwaves but can secure a broadcast license to promote the “public interest”. Any transaction by a commercial enterprise, with the approval of the FCC, must promote the public interest.
The demise of “Open Line” and “Week-in-Review” on KISS-FM for Spanish sports programming fail to promote the “public interest”. An aggrieved listener, however, can only be heard at the FCC through a media rights organization. Last October, a group of Blacks from the tri-state area started the process of establishing a media rights organization for Blacks. This effort must not only be expanded but also accelerated.
There will be an emergency meeting and advanced seminar on media rights and media history at the Cotton Club, 656 West 125th Street in Harlem on Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. This is not a “silver rights” effort. Blacks must establish a media rights organization based on a business model. The development of a media agenda for Blacks in the tri-state area will start at the Cotton Club on Saturday, May 12.
The ending of “Open Line” and “Week-in-Review” took me down memory lane. I have been directly involved in media in New York City since before 1976 when I was a poverty lawyer in Harlem. I have been careful not to say that KISS-FM (98.7) itself had a curtain call this past Sunday. It is now a landlord. ESPN is its tenant.
Under the Communications Act of 1934, the airwaves belong to the public. A commercial enterprise may secure a license to operate a media outlet in the “public interest”. This license must be renewed on a certain date. It is not an automatic renewal, however. The enterprise must submit an application to show that it had and will continue to operate in the “public interest”. For New York, the next date for license renewals is 2015.
There has been no media rights organization for Blacks in the tri-state area since the landmark case of United Church of Christ v. FCC. For the first time, the public, in 1966, gained the limited right to be heard before the FCC. This right, in 1966, was the outgrowth of the effort by Medgar Evers who was assassinated in 1963.
Medgar Evers became field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi in 1954 after he was denied admission to the University of Mississippi Law School. Earlier, Charles Evers had been a disc jockey in Philadelphia, MS. His job ended when he protested, over the airwaves, the disenfranchisement of Blacks in Mississippi. This protest was not a free speech right.
The lynching of Blacks in Mississippi without any semblance of due process of law has been a perennial problem. It was highlighted by the lynching of Emmett Till and Rev. George Lee. Because of the efforts of Emmett Till’s mother and Jet magazine, his lynching received national and international attention.
Afterwards, Medgar Evers continued to petition the FCC and the media in Mississippi to put a spotlight on the plight of its Blacks. The Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizen’s Council, through their members, had ownership interests in state media. These members did not take kindly to the efforts of Medgar Evers. White supremacists ended his life in June 1963.
Warren Earl Burger, as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, wrote the landmark decision in 1966. President Richard Nixon, who was purportedly big on “Black capitalism”, appointed Burger as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969. He wrote, in the landmark decision, that a qualified, media rights organization could speak for members of the public. Members of the public could not appear before the FCC pro se.
To meet the requirements for a media rights organization, Blacks from the tri-state area have met monthly at the Cotton Club, 656 West 125th Street in Harlem for a seminar on media law and media history. This past Sunday, a guest on KISS-FM also said that Blacks need a media rights organization in the tri-state area to secure media rights.
The U.S. Constitution is xenophobic, ergophobic, and misanthropic. Except for white men, rights must be paid for in blood or they must procure rights through organizations with business models. Afterwards, each organization must observe the following: “The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance”. The speaker was Thomas Jefferson.
Members of the ASPCA must pay monthly dues of Nineteen Dollars. There is no meeting place, no monthly seminar, no lecture, no materials and no breakfast buffet for those members. Additional fees are necessary for lobbying and for seminars for animal rights.
Members of animal rights organizations pay substantial fees to protect their animals from persons like Michael Vick. In law schools, a course in animal rights is outgrowing a course in civil rights. This is a sign of the times. Blacks have fewer rights than animals. This is worse than Dred Scott.
At the Cotton Club, Sixteen Dollars goes to the Cotton Club. Nineteen Dollars goes to the seminar sponsor for the cost of the lecture on media law, rights and history in addition to materials. There is also a one-time membership fee of Fifteen Dollars. On-going research is necessary for the formation of a media rights organization. This includes research visits to the FCC in Washington, DC. Regular e-mails are published.
In addition to public affairs programming on commercial radio and television in the tri-state area, there is also a right to public access channels. In New York City, the only public affairs program for Blacks is “Community Cop”. It should be seen on Tuesdays at 5:00 p.m.
For some reason, the program is delayed in some boroughs. By the end of May, members have pledged to rectify this problem. An interim report on this issue will be made at the Cotton Club on May 12, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
When members initially met at the Cotton Club this past October, the chief problem was the lack of public affairs programming for Blacks in the tri-state area. Blacks were witnessing the demise of “Like It Is”. Each of the six commercial stations in the tri-state area is required to air public affairs programming for Blacks. This was the reason for “Like It Is” (ch. 7), “Positively Black” (ch. 4) and “Black News” (ch. 5). Now, all of them refuse to comply with FCC law.
While this right to public affairs programming still exist, public affairs programming for Blacks in the tri-state area is now defunct because Blacks have failed to exercise eternal vigilance over the FCC through business models: Now, Blacks are witnessing the end of public affairs programs for them on radio also. It appears to be a national conspiracy.
KISS-FM (98.7) gave Blacks the boot to accommodate Latinos. ESPN (1050-A.M.) will be used for Spanish sports programming. It is now being rumored that Inner-City Broadcasting will also lease its airwaves in the tri-state area to Latinos. Blacks will be marginalized. There will be no media outlet to deliver a political message to Blacks. This is a violation of the First and Fourteenth amendments.
Too honest for the White Press and too black for much of today’s Black Press; bullet columnist Alton Maddox upsets the same people and status quo as he did as an uncompromising Defense Attorney. He is also a founding member of the Freedom Party. Please sign his Petition to save “Like It Is.” Contact him at c/o UAM P.O. BOX 35 BRONX, NY 10471