Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson Thursday expressed "disappointment" with a recent TV One Federal Communications Commission filing in opposition of Johnson's bid to launch an upstart, urban-targeted network.
In a letter to TV One chairman Alfred Liggins, Johnson said he was "disappointed and puzzled" as to TV One's Feb. 19 FCC filing that opposes digital must-carry for networks such as Johnson's Urban Television, LLC network. Johnson, along with Ion Media Networks, is petitioning the FCC to grant Urban TV must-carry status under "share time" licenses.
Johnson said that TV One, which is the only minority-owned network currently in the marketplace, made a "strenuous" argument when it launched in 2004 that it should get mandatory carriage on any cable system that served urban markets due to the lack of networks other than BET targeting the African-American community.
"You felt then that BET should not be the only voice," said Johnson. "Now, in an amazing turn-about of self interest motivated by Comcast, the largest cable company which owns a significant stake in TV One, you argue that TV One should be the only voice."
In its filing, TV One said it "welcomes greater focus on African-American viewers, who historically have been underserved by mainstream broadcast television ... however, TV One strenuously objects to the manner in which Urban seeks to launch, and ensure the commercial success of, its proposed network - through regulatory manipulation and a government-mandated right to carriage."
The filing added that the granting of must-carry status to Urban TV and other potential networks "would result in cable networks such as TV One being dropped from, or not added by, [operators] in favor of multicast channels such as Urban that would be carried not by virtue of the quality of their programming but in compliance with a regulatory edict."
But Johnson argued that Urban TV's actions "would in no way reduce carriage for TV One, BET or will [in] any way prevent the future expansion of TV One and BET."