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Title:ABC refuses $20,000 of Black community advertising on Like It Is

Author:James C. McIntosh, MD

Publication:Amsterdam News

Original Language:English



Blurb:ABC has turned down $20,000 of advertising for Like It Is, for the same reason Like It Is in endangered the first place: Black access to the airwaves, Black content and Black control.


Body:On Wednesday, March 27, WABC-TV account executives Steve Dilworth and Dan Donovan, and Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People (CEMOTAP) co-chairs Betty Dopson and myself, held a long-awaited meeting regarding the purchase of $20,000 worth of advertising on Gil Nobles Like It Is program, which airs on Sundays. The meeting ended with an agreement to air the first of 12 one-minute commercials advertising community events on March 31. Dilworth and Donovan seemed ecstatic to have landed the sale.

As Dopson, myself and the WABC-TV account executives agreed on March 29, a first installment check for $6,000 and a studio-produced one-minute commercial in Beta format were delivered to the station.

The commercial had been professionally produced by Brother Babatunde and his associates at, and featured a background of a world globe with South America and Africa in the foreground, on which the specifies regarding 12 African community events flashed sequentially for five-second intervals. In the background, Noel Pointers jazz violin undergirded my voice, explaining how on Feb. 2, over a dozen African organizations met with the Black community at the historic Bethany Baptist Church to raise money for the CEMOTAP Drum community billboard, now airing on Like It Is.

By noon the same day, Dilworth and his boss, Donovan, were called into a meeting with high-ranking WABC executives and told in no uncertain terms not to air the advertisement.

A dumbfounded Dilworth said he wasnt exactly sure why the execs pulled the ad. He said he was told that it was against ABC policy to air a paid community calendar. Dilworth, who had never heard of the policy previously, said the quality of the ad produced looked fine to him, that everything was fine with the money and the tape, but for reasons of which he was uncertain, a done deal was undone.

Insiders say that WABC-TV General Manager and President Tom Kane had voiced concerns that community calendars are the sort of thing the FCC mandates the station to air for free. Kane felt the station would be demonstrably in violation of that mandate if it charged for a community calendar.

How specious an argument could Kane come up with? The station has never been fearful of the FCC all these years that they failed to provide a free community calendar to the African community and therefore provided no public airwave access to the airwaves to grassroots community organizations. Should anyone believe that they have suddenly developed the fear that a now all-but-toothless FCC could prevent ABC from accepting a paid advertisement that results in actually granting the public access originally mandated by the FCC? After all, Kanes newly expressed fear never stopped WABC-TV from pressuring Noble to make his public affairs program Like It Is commercial. If the alleged FCC mandate for unpaid access suddenly applied to community calendars, why did it no longer apply to a public affairs show such as Like It Is?

If fear of the FCC was the issue, Kane could have aired the commercials and returned the money. Dopson said she could not understand how Like It Is, supposedly on the brink of cancellation over monetary concerns, could be refused a paid advertisement to support the show. Dopson said, I can still remember Gils face at our tribute to him on Feb. 2. He was ecstatic that the community turned out in such numbers and had made such a substantial financial contribution to save his show.

People are still sending in money, continued Dopson. Frederika Bey of Women in Support of the Million Man March and a group of ministers in New Jersey have already organized a follow-up meeting to pay for ads, after these first 12 to 13 covered by the money we collected.

Dopson is certainly right; ABC has tipped its hand. Now it can be clearly seen that money was never the issue with the show after all. ABC has turned down $20,000 of advertising for Like It Is with many more dollars promised to follow. The real issue regarding this community commercial is the same one that endangers Like It Is in the first place: Black access to the airwaves, Black content and Black control. Some person or persons have decided that Black people are not supposed to talk unless they are dancing, shuffling, bouncing a ball, rhyming or saying something written by others.

Organizers of the Feb. 2 tribute to Gil Noble began meeting immediately to plot the next course of action and urge that all supporters in the community stand at the ready. To see and hear the video version of the advertisement, complete with the music and voiceover as it was to have appeared on Like It Is, visit the Web site

As the Amsterdam News went to press, Kane, in an effort to resolve the impasse, had scheduled to meet late in the afternoon on April 3 with leaders from the following groups: Afrikan Poetry Theatre, African Heritage Sunday, CEMOTAP, National Association of Kawaida Organizations, United African Movement, New Black Panther Party, African Nationalist Pioneer Movement, Patrice Lumumba Coalition, Million Man and Women March Coordinating Committee of Queens, Kween Fuvi and the December 12th Movement.

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