Why is the Black Press (NNPA) selling out to AT&T & Consolidation?

The other day I spoke about how the current political climate is no longer about Dems vs Repubs. Instead its really about the rich and Wanna be Rich vs the working class and poor. I deliberately use the word ‘wanna be rich‘ because that’s the weak link and where most of the damage is done.

Corporate heads are small in number less than (10%) yet control anywhere from 80-90% of the wealth. The average CEO in the US makes 319-475 for every dollar earned by his/her workforce. In places like Japan, home to the world’s second largest economy the ratio is 11-1. In Germany its 12-1. You can peep those figures HERE.

What these CEOs have done is invested in large media companies and PR firms where they do two things, lay out attack after attack on the American workforce, in particular unions. The line has been to blame workers receiving pensions and health benefits for the collapse of the economy vs uber rich CEOs outsourcing their jobs to impoverished countries and hiding their money in offshore tax shelters.

These CEOs then entice charismatic and highly visible figures or organizations receiving funding aka ‘Wannabe Rich’ who wish to court favor to be the average John Doe ‘talking head‘ for their anti-worker/ pro corporate policies. They help create fictional boogey men against the working poor which is then propagandized all over the airwaves. We seen this happen over the issue of Net Neutrality, the bashing of unions and now with the proposed merger of telcom giant AT&T and T-Mobile.

In the AT&T deal we have the Black press (NNPA) of all people along with the National Urban League supporting the consolidation of a major industry most of us have to use in some form or fashion.. I find it ironic that a group of media folks who have seen first hand the sickening impact consolidation has both on the media industry and our community at large would team up and support a major consolidator.

Thank God our friends at the Black Agenda Report go in on these corporate lackeys and breakdown the lunacy of them supporting consolidation..We salute BAR for a job well done. Thanks for holding the line and not selling out the community for three pieces of silver.

-Davey D-

What’s the mission of the black press? To hear Walter Smith, CEO of the NY Beacon and NNPA Budget Chairman, it’s to rep their advertisers, and increase their “corporate visibility.” What happened to informing the pubic, to defending the interests of black communities, to telling the truth without fear or favor? Last week we denounced NNPA’s craven endorsement of AT&T’s buyout of T-Mobile, which will concentrate three-quarters of the US cell phone market in the hands of two massive and massively predatory corporations. They answered.

NNPA Defends Endorsement of Predatory AT&T -T-Mobile Merger. And We Answer

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Bruce Dixon

Last week I excoriated the NNPA, the National Newspaper Publishers Association for its instantaneous and craven endorsement of AT&T’s proposal to buy out T-Mobile. The proposed merger would give two companies, AT&T and Verizon, three quarters of the U.S. cell phone market. I listed nine reasons why the Justice Department and FCC and Congress should reject the merger, and especially why black and brown civic and leadership organizations ought to oppose it.

Since then, the National Urban League, the NAACP, both heavily dependent on AT&T and Verizon for charitable donations, rushed to endorse the merger. And Walter Smith, CEO of the New York Beacon and NNPA Budget Chairman took the time to write and take issue with us. We thank him for his letter, which you can find here, and take this opportunity to answer it.

Dear Mr. Smith,

Walter Smith NNPA

Thank you for taking the time to write us here at Black Agenda Report. In my article last week I listed nine reasons why the AT&T merger was bad economics, bad public policy and especially disastrous for black and poor communities. Regrettably your response addressed none of those points.

You began by preaching that “…Mergers, acquisitions, re-organizations, etc is the corporate building blocks of the US economy.…” That’s nonsense.

Any reputable economist, and by that I mean any economist who predicted the crash and bailout of 2008 will tell you that there is a real economy in which things are built and services rendered, and there is a parasitic “economy” in which rents and interest payments are extracted, corporate welfare is handed out, and public assets are privatized. Corporate mergers are obviously parasitic. As I pointed out last week, corporate mergers produce no new assets, they eliminate jobs and raise prices. They are anti-competitive, bad for customer service and a disincentive to innovation.

This is not a small thing. It’s such a fundamental misstatement of economic fact that it calls into question your willingness and/or your ability to tell the truth to your readers. And make no mistake, Mr. Smith, the will and the ability of the black press to tell the truth without fear or favor is what this is all about.

Your letter continued to say

NNPA has a long standing relationship with AT&T and it has become more significant with the relationship our present Chairman has with the hierarchy of the corporation…

The Black Press of America, represented by NNPA is not a WATCHDOG, it is a communicator. We report the news and record black history. Publishers editorialize about issues that affect the communities they serve.

“NNPA has a partnership with AT&T that has yielded benefits for the black community in ways you cannot see nor imagine. Black newspaper publishers hire local community photographers, writers, distributors, office personnel,and local printers. Our revenue for these jobs comes from our advertising revenues. Where does much of these revenues come from? You guessed it, AT&T and Verizon.”

Sadly, I could not have said it better. Your vision of the black press is that of “communicator” on behalf of those corporations who give you advertising revenue, which you use to pay a handful of contractors and staff.

This is a profoundly different mission for the black press, for journalism in general, than the framers of the Constitution had in mind. Journalism was the only industry that got its own constitutional amendment precisely because democracy depended on journalists faithfully and fearlessly informing the public.

Frederick Douglass

You have radically departed also from the mission of the black press of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Frederick Douglass preached and organized tirelessly, first against slavery, then for Reconstruction, and finally against lynching and Jim Crow. Ida B. Wells carried this legacy on into the twentieth century. The mission of the black press in those days was first to allow us to speak with and to hear our own voices, not those our masters appointed to speak for or to us, and secondly to defend black interests by fearlessly exposing injustice of all kinds. The black press of those days was truly a weapon of mass discussion. But no longer, as your letter points out:

No the Black Press ain’t what it used to be. Its a new day for the Black Press under New leadership with an experienced entrepreneur who has the business acumen to negotiate a financial partnership with corporate America and does not sell out one Black person in doing so.

If you want to fight the merger, by all means do so. However the black press does not need your input nor approval on the position we take be it political or financial. The Black Press is still operating under the same creed as it did in 1827, “We wish to plead our own cause, Too long have others spoken for us.

Your position on the AT&T merger is indeed selling out millions of black people. Pretty much everybody who pays a cell phone bill will pay a higher one thanks to this merger. Thousands of jobs, many held by black people, will disappear. The tens of billions AT&T might have spent extending wireless and broadband service to poor, black, brown and rural communities will go instead to buy out its competition.

If your job, Brother Smith, is to report the news, then you should report news, not be the sock puppet for your advertisers. If your mission is to “record black history,” you get a choice there too. You can write that history from the viewpoint of ordinary black families, or you can write it from the viewpoint of your corporate advertisers and donors.

The New York Beacon, where you are CEO is about as good as black newspapers get these days. Most offer far less non-advertising, non-entertainment copy. Many are entirely composed of ads, PR handouts from local governments, corporations and other institutions, wire service copy from Reuters, AP, and sometimes NNPA, and entertainment fluff.

How many NNPA newspapers have bothered to educate the public on the fact that text messaging, because it rides on the otherwise empty communication packets between phones and network servers, costs cell phone providers literally nothing, though they have regularly raised prices on this service? Not a one. How many NNPA newspapers have explained to audiences that the artificial broadband scarcities of the digital divide are a basic and permanent feature of telecom company business models from Comcast to Verizon to AT&T, and even reaching back into era of analog telephone service?

One of the reasons that Americans, including black ones, are the best entertained and least informed people on earth is your abandonment of the core mission of journalism, lack of interest in an informed public, the very reason for the existence of journalism.

Your letter concludes thusly:

As a result of Chairman Bakewell’s tenure with NNPA, we have increased our visibility in corporate America, have increased revenues to the association, have increased advertising revenues to our member publishers, have regained credibility with the readership, and have increased membership in the organization. Have you done as much for Black Agenda Report?”

Evidently Mr. Smith, you have confused your own business model with the public good of our black communities.

The telecom industry spreads a lot of charitable contributions and advertising revenue around. It rains cash upon utilizes legacy African Americans like the NAACP, the Urban League and your NNPA, and funds wholly astroturf outfits like ADE, the Alliance for Digital Equality. It uses you, and them, to hurl false and spurious accusations of white racism against national media reform organizations like Free Press who advocate network neutrality and the extension of broadband to black, brown and poor communities.

Black Agenda Report is doing what you should be doing, Mr. Smith. We are commited to educating the public on the facts, not increasing our corporate visibility and raking in the maximum ad revenue. We are committed to gathering 50,000 signatures of black people, and all people on a petition to stop this ill-advised merger, and presenting that petition to the FCC, to the Congressional Black Caucus, to the National Conference of Black State Legislators, to the White House and the Justice Department later this year demanding that this predatory, anti-competitive merger be halted.

We invite all who read this to help prove you wrong by signing the petition themselves, and forwarding it to as many of your friends, neighbors, co-workers and associates as possible. You may also want to forward this article from last week, which outlines nine reasons why the merger is a very bad idea.


As I said last week, Ida B. Wells, the champion of the black press in the early 20th century, is rolling in her grave. If she were alive today we both know what side she’d be on.


Bruce A. Dixon

managing editor, Black Agenda Report


Remember the Fight Against Radio Consolidation? Is Net Neutrality the New Consolidation Battleground?

Net Neutrality… This is the make or break issue of our generation much the same way the Telecom Act of 1996 was the make or break issue of the last generation..

Back in ’96, we heard all the same arguments being made by the corporate radio companies like Clear Channel that we are hearing from the telecoms like AT&T and Comcast. We heard people say that it was going to be better for the consumer. Radio companies made the case that if they were allowed to consolidate they would be able to diversify their content because there would be less competition. In other words they could have lots of niche stations that explored various genres of music because they wouldn’t be competing with other stations.

They also made the case that consolidation would be good for people of color because it would allow minority owners to better compete. The reason cited was that it would be easier for minority owners to sell ads when they had more than one station in a market vs one or two. Some of the larger stations came up with a scheme where they would help sell ads for small minority stations. This was done to get these small groups to go alone with the 96 Act. We now know back room deals were cut where small stations agreed not to adapt certain formats and be competition to the mega giant radio companies in the market. For example in LA the Black owned station would agree not to play too much Hip Hop or not go too deep into an oldies format.

Those minority owned stations that tried to tough it out were either brought out or smashed on. The most glaring case of this occurred in the Bay Area which is dominated by Clear Channel. When a small upstart station opened up in Oakland Power 92.7 FM they decided to fill a void and dwell deeper in the urban format. The first thing that happened was Clear Channel executives called the banks and tried to block the small station from getting financing.

Next my old boss Michael Martin sent out letters to the Black/urban departments of all the major labels threatening that if they supported this new station with servicing them new music,  artist interviews or even station ID drops that he would see to it they would not get any airplay on the other Clear Channel properties in this part of the country. The same message went out to local Bay Area artist. Many were scared to come on board and help out for fear of long term, far reaching reprisals. Eventually the station was shut down with a former Clear Channel executive purchasing the station.

I would encourage folks to read this article called Fighting the Power (Upstart rap station Power 92.7 had its eyes on big, bad KMEL, but didn’t watch its back)  written by fellow Bay Area journalist Eric Arnold. It gives you keen insight of what happens when consolidation in an industry we all engage is allowed to happen. Getting rid of Net Neutrality is the equivalent to media consolidation. Just like Clear Channel controls the airwaves as this article bares out, AT&T and Comcast will control the net.. Mark my words.

Back in 96, many of the corporate radio stations who were lobbying for consolidation approached some of the very same Civil Right leaders who the telecoms are approaching now. They promised them radio shows and syndication for shows that existed and assured us people of color would be more visible. President Bill Clinton also championed this bill for increased consolidation. The nations so-called ‘First Black President’  assured us this was needed in order for the Radio industry to grow…

Well since 96 what has grown? We know Clear Channel grew? We know Fox news grew. Meanwhile diversity and people’s satisfaction for radio has shrunk tremendously. By 2003 there were calls for boycotts against radio. The reason being was radio both White and Black owned were pushing a narrow corporate agenda and not responding to the widespread dissatisfaction people had with these outlets.

There were boycotts called for stations ranging from Hot 97 in NY to WJLB in Detroit to WGCI in Chicago to KUBE in Seattle to KMEL in San Francisco. etc. A tribunal addressing concerns about Urban radio in NY drew more than 2000 people to a church in Harlem where people launched blistering complaints for over 6 hours. People complained about the dumb down content, the same 10 songs being played day in and day out to lack of access for community voices and local artists. Many also complained about the increasing politically conservative ideals being pushed out. We saw news depertments shrink as consolidation meant that one person would handle duties over 3 or 4 different stations.

The FCC held hearings all over the country to standing room crowds when the industry attempted to get even more consolidation.. The radio companies made the claim that they needed to be allowed to own newspapers and more radio station in a market in order to grow.

Former FCC Chair Michael Powell

When I ran into FCC chair Michael Powell, at a Rainbow Push Conference in 2003, I told him about the tribunal that was held in Harlem the night before. His response was if people don’t like whats taking place on radio then they should go to the Internet. He felt the internet allowed for all those unhappy voices to be heard.

Fast forward to 2010, we now have the telecoms making the same claims as the radio giants from 13-14  years ago. We have some of the same ‘minority’ groups trying to curry favor with the telecoms just like they did with radio corps back in 96. We also have a public that finds the issue boring or extremely complicated just like in 96..If this Net Neutrality is allowed to be deaded on behalf of three telecom companies and the Civil Rights groups they been paying off, were gonna be moaning about the constrictions placed on the internet the same way we do radio.

-Davey D-

Telecom firms’ donations to minority groups criticized as FCC considers net neutrality rules

Key minority organizations are backing the carriers’ efforts to thwart net neutrality proposals. Critics say the millions of dollars and in-kind help the firms pour into the groups is a factor.

By Jennifer Martinez, Los Angeles Times

Some leading minority advocacy groups long have supported AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp. and other major telecommunications firms in the industry’s efforts to win approvals for mergers, get rid of old regulations and avoid new government rules.

And the telecom firms, in turn, have poured millions of dollars of donations and in-kind services, including volunteer help from the carriers’ executive suites, into charitable groups in the communities they serve.

Consumer and public advocates used to whisper about the possibility of conflicts of interest, but now they are openly critical as the battle heats up over proposed federal regulations over net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers should not restrict content, programs and other uses on their networks.

Key minority groups are backing the carriers’ efforts to thwart the net neutrality proposals, which would, for instance, prohibit carriers from charging more to give some residential and corporate customers priority in delivering online content.

“When you give national civil rights groups millions of private dollars, there’s no firewall strong enough to keep that money out of their policy,” said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice.

Cyril and other consumer and public advocates have been buoyed by comments from Federal Communications Commission member Mignon L. Clyburn, a prominent African American and daughter of Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.).

She said in a speech in January that she was surprised that most statements and filings by “some of the leading groups representing people of color have been silent on this make-or-break issue” of net neutrality.

continue reading..http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-net-neutrality-minorities-20101005,0,5480002,print.story

Google Sells Out to Cut Deal w/ Telecom Giant Verizon Over Net Neutrality-How Will This Impact You?

The internet and telecom giants Verizon and Google have reportedly reached an agreement to impose a tiered system for accessing the internet. The deal would enable Verizon to charge for quicker access to online content over wireless devices, a violation of the concept of net neutrality that calls for equal access to all services. The deal comes amidst closed-door meetings between the Federal Communications Commission and major telecom giants on crafting new regulations. In a statement, the media reform group Free Press criticized the Google-Verizon deal, saying, “The financial interests of Google appear to have finally trumped its belief in policies to preserve the open Internet…The Federal Communications Commission cannot stand by and allow the biggest market players to create two Internets.”

-Reported on Democracy Now-

Update: Aug 5 2010.. Google has responded to all the headlines and reports about their conversations w/ Verizon.. They are saying they still back Net Neutrality , however, they are still in talks with Verizon… I encourage folks to follow all this carefully and read the articles below to familiarize yourself with Net Neutrality…

Here’s Googles response.


I can’t even began to tell you how troubling this is.. Its been all but absent on the morning newscasts who seem more enamored with a man we don’t know being discovered he was married on Facebook. Meanwhile I feel bad for artists who found the Net to be saving grace. Its just a matter of time before corporate backed major labels start following suit thus relegating indy artist to the slow lanes of the internet.. Remember we been speaking on this for a minute. With Google throwing down the gauntlet to cut a deal with telecoms versus continue fighting to protect Net Neutrality, one can see that day looming. I encourage folks to call their congress people and push them hard..And if Net Neutrality falls by the wayside be sure to blame all those Civil Right orgs who lined up with AT&T to help kill it in return for sponsorship of events and perceived HNIC status

He who controls the flow of information sets the tone..


Please pay attention to what Senator Al Franken is saying Net Neutrality is the First Amendment Right of our Time..


Reported Verizon-Google Deal Means FCC Must Act to Set Public Interest Policy

R.I.P. Google ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Policy

WASHINGTON – Reports today indicate that a deal between Verizon and Google on Internet traffic management is forthcoming, and could be announced as early as Monday. According to Bloomberg News, the companies have agreed to abandon Net Neutrality protections on the mobile Internet. It remains unclear what the terms are for wired services.

At the same time, the Federal Communications Commission is convening closed-door meeting with companies to determine policies for the Internet.

Free Press president and CEO Josh Silver made the following statement:

“Two of the largest companies – Google and Verizon – have reportedly agreed to abandon consumer protections, filter content and limit choice and free speech on the mobile Internet. If true, the deal is a bold grab for market power by two monopolistic players. Such abuse of the open Internet would put to final rest the Google mandate to ‘don’t be evil.’

“If reports are accurate, such a deal would effectively create two Internets where application and content innovators have to ask Verizon and Google for permission to reach mobile Internet customers. Such a deal would make it more difficult for independent and diverse speakers to reach a broad audience and diminish the value of the mobile Internet as a new marketplace for ideas. It would mean that mobile consumers would no longer be able to access the same websites, applications and software as anyone else on the Internet.

“The financial interests of Google appear to have finally trumped its belief in policies to preserve the open Internet. A deal with Verizon cements its market power, and could make it more difficult for new app developers and software entrepreneurs to reach consumers.

“Congress and the FCC must act now to put consumers, entrepreneurs and the public interest ahead of the interests of these individual corporations. The agency must reject this framework and end the closed-door stakeholder negotiations it is now holding. The FCC cannot stand by and allow the biggest market players to create two Internets, it must enact real Net Neutrality protections that preserve openness for all Internet users, regardless of technology. We look to the FCC and Congress to deliver on President Obama’s pledge to protect Net Neutrality and promote universal access to broadband.”

Earlier I mentioned a mjor death blow was Traditional Civil Rights groups getting snookered , caving in or selling out to AT&T and Big telecoms. Here is a list of some of them..

Urban League Chapter






National Lesbian and Gay Chamber of Commerce


Hispanic Federation




Latino community Foundation in San Francisco


Native Americans









NAACP in California


Jesse Jackson Rainbow Push


Texas State Rep. Robert Alonzo


MANA, A National Latino Organization


100 Black Men of South Metro


100 Black Men of Mobile


100 Black Men of Greater Mobile




100 Black Men of Tennessee


100 Black Men of Orlando




Hispanic Interests Coalition of Alabama


SER: Jobs for Progress


NAACP Mar-Saline Branch


Japanese American Citizens League


Organization of Chinese Americans


Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies

Rep. Yvette Clarke