On Monday, Comcast and Radio One will launch their joint venture, targeting African American viewers. TV One will become the third such network in the cable marketplace, joining BET and MBC. As a cable person I certainly have a professional interest in the success of these networks, but as a black man I have a decidedly personal stake. So, in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose life and accomplishments we celebrate Monday, I humbly offer this list of dreams for the cable industry. I have a dream that networks will understand that the African American television market is a socially, culturally and artistically complex place, and will develop content accordingly. I also dream that cable’s investment in original content will be commensurate with the $257 billion that blacks represent in buying power. I have a dream of programming that is not only for blacks, but by blacks. There is no group with more influence on American popular culture than young African Americans, and if networks don’t let them participate in the development of content, the TV establishment will be missing a chance to fundamentally change the world. I have a dream that, much like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" has been able to put a face on the gay lifestyle and open up a number of previously closed minds, cable will develop a breakout show that will humanize hip-hop culture to older, increasingly suspicious white Americans. I have a dream that cable will make a deep understanding of black history – particularly recent black history – a programming mantra. In my dream, African American baseball players know everything there is to know about Jackie Robinson, black football players are able to recite chapter and verse about Ernie Davis and "Night Train" Lane, and young rappers regularly break down and cry as they detail the remarkable life of Paul Robeson. I have a dream that cable puts away its broad brush and comes to grips with the fact that there is no such thing as African American music, only music played by African Americans. In my dream, programmers know that the only link between Miles Davis, Macy Gray, Bo Diddley, Bessie Smith, 50 Cent, Lena Horne, the Chambers Brothers, C.J. Cheneir, Johnny Mathis, Wu Tang Clan, Bill Withers, The Three Degrees, Mahalia Jackson, The Tams, Sly and the Family Stone, Barry White, Keb Mo, Sammy Davis, Jr and Jimi Hendrix is the color of their skin. I have a dream that cable will develop the African American equivalent of "The Simpsons." I have a dream that MSOs will not look at three black networks as two too many, but will come to fully comprehend just how many shades of skin tone can be found in $257 billion worth of viewership. I have a dream that TV One (owned in part by Radio One) will escape the fate suffered by so many stations in radio, where content is now less a product of instinct, insight and imagination and more a result of focus group research and narrow programming directives. I have a dream that TV One will do what most third horses do when they enter a two-horse race – increase the stakes and up the quality of the competition. And finally, I have a dream that at least one of the three networks gets it right. Because Symonds says programming that doesn’t pander to blacks, but inspires them; that teaches them about their past while giving them hope; that celebrates their culture without polarizing other cultures – that’s television for the mountaintop; television for the promised land; television for a nation in which people are finally judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Curtis Symonds can be reached at 202.321.6621

The Daily


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