Civil-rights activist and presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton said he'll work to help upstart African-American network Major Broadcasting Corp. gain distribution on cable systems.
Sharpton told Multichannel News
last week that he will aid MBC chairman Willie Gary in some capacity to help build awareness and gain carriage for the network, which is currently in 10.5 million homes, but has deals to reach as many as 28 million households.
MBC, which offers family-values programming, is co-owned by Gary, former baseball star Cecil Fielder, entertainer Marlon Jackson, cable veteran Alvin James and former heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield.
"We're very much supportive of what Willie [Gary] is doing with MBC," said Sharpton, though he would not reveal specifics on how he will aid the network.
Sharpton, who spoke last week at the NAMIC Conference, is no stranger to the cable industry. The flamboyant Sharpton and his National Action Network have aggressively targeted — and in some cases demonstrated against — cable operators and satellite providers on behalf of The Word Network, despite Word's non-minority ownership status.
"Now we're trying [to] diversify [the industry] and work with those networks that are black-owned," Sharpton said. "Now we're trying to help MBC."
MBC representatives could not be reached for comment at press time.
Sharpton, who spoke on a panel at the NAMIC Conference here, said mainstream America — particularly the advertising community — continues to underestimate and the value of minority owned and targeted media companies.
He pointed to the New York radio market, where the top-rated radio station was Hispanic owned and operated, yet was 18th overall in advertising revenue.
"It shows that even if you were doing the business, you could not get the business — our marketplace was devalued even when the numbers were there," he said.
He added that any company that doesn't take the issue of diversity seriously will fail to effectively compete in an increasingly multicultural environment.
"Not only is that bad social policy, it's not good business. If your business is to thrive and survive at all, it must adjust to a diverse workforce, because they're dealing with a diverse America."