- - Sunday, March 30, 2014


It is fundamentally flawed to penalize someone for engaging in free enterprise and free thought. Thinking about it objectively, how can we penalize someone for his thoughts rather than his actions? Furthermore, we penalize people for thoughts that promote diversity, minority ownership and free enterprise — ideals that invigorate this country — not thoughts of crime. This radicalism shows that movies like “Minority Report” are not as fictionalized as we once imagined. It is imperative to recognize the difference between actual free thought and thought crime, to realize this confusion is happening in real life, in real time. We dare not doubt the belief systems currently in place, or even worse dare to promote the core fundamental conservative ideals and values that built this land. Who would not want to see our country make a speedy return to the very values that placed America at the pinnacle of world power and esteem? But if I do wish for that, what crime have I committed?

Are we not allowed to think for ourselves? Can we be truly independent of government subjection? What crime have I committed?

When taking a look at my track record, I have empowered countless minorities in workplaces across the country. Enterprises I’ve founded and supported have provided invaluable experience for minorities. Those whom I have enabled over the years have received knowledge and power and formed their own set of beliefs and ideals. This is how all Americans should be treated, instead of being force-fed what the government deems best. What crime have I committed?

In order to make a true change in terms of free speech and free thought in this country, we must take steps. These are steps toward liberty and autonomy, the kind of independence feasible only when you have ownership. In my case, that ownership stake is in the media business. Free speech is nonexistent unless the press is freely owned. When you are able to present thought-provoking questioning about the iron grip the government has on the media industry, then things begin to heat up. All it takes for alternative thought is that seed of doubt planted by the ownership of broadcast. That step was taken when I purchased two television stations in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Flint, Mich., under my new company, Howard Stirk Holdings, LLC.

My stations, WEYI-NBCTV in Flint-Saginaw, Mich., and WWMB-CWTV in the Florence-Myrtle Beach market, represent two of only three full-powered broadcast stations in the country licensed to black-owned companies. My company acquired and currently operates our stations using “joint sales” and “shared services” agreements with Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest broadcasters in the country, agreements approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Without the ability to enter into these agreements, I would not have been able to own a TV station. The shared services agreement gives me access to capital that would be otherwise unavailable. As I’ve said before, access to capital and financing is the largest obstacles to new-entrant and minority ownership, and the shared service accords provide the only path over that obstacle. Manifestly, these agreements advance diversity, create opportunity and generally serve the larger public interest.

More important, shared services arrangements have been designed specifically to comply with the FCC’s ownership rules, not, as some critics insist, to circumvent them. Over the course of 10 years, shared services and joint sales agreements have been scrutinized and shaped by the FCC itself. If such arrangements were no longer allowed, my business would be untenable. The public would lose a minority-tinged media voice. I would lose an opportunity to own and to succeed. Diversity, in our increasingly diverse country, would be diminished. The detractors are well aware of what the outcome will be, despite what they argue. Again, I ask, what crime is it that I have committed?

Without these irreplaceable agreements, it would be impossible for newcomers to broadcast television to even get their feet wet. Put simply, banking institutions require more assurance than a lone individual’s capital and credit. As made possible by joint sales agreements, sole proprietors like myself are able to gain financing by entering into ownership with a partner — in my case, David Smith and Sinclair Broadcast TV Group — and co-signer. Think about it: If you were a loan officer, would you issue a line of credit to an individual alone or to that individual backed by guaranteed collateral and a partnership with a well-established company? What crime is it that I have committed?

As I have committed no crime, I will continue to fight for this particular corner of the American Dream. I hope others will see themselves in my struggle.

Armstrong Williams is the owner/manager of Howard Stirk Holdings and editor-in-chief of American CurrentSee magazine.

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