NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 148

146 Not surprisingly, race-based programming on public television contributed to a backlash. In fall 1968, some public television outlets beyond New York City complained that net, which developed original programs for the educational television network, was “heavily slanted in favor of the left” and lacked balance. Since few local stations had the resources to create programming, this was a clear effort to censor net productions. Greaves recalled that while net’s management was, at times, uncomfortable with the program’s coverage of entities such as Malcolm X or the Nation of Islam, there were no efforts to silence Black Journal. But now there was increasing pressure to do so. A few months later net officials formally disputed the charges of bias, arguing that at the heart of the complaints were objections to “n.e.t.’s dealing with social problems, changes and conflicts.” The network chief defiantly declared that the “obligation of n.e.t… is to report American life as it exists.” However, shortly after this debate the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting forged a blueprint for public television that would bring more conservative and middle-of-theroad viewpoints into rotation, especially in public affairs. This was a harbinger for the end of Ford’s dominance in educational broadcasting — the cpb, chartered by Congress, was to take over Ford’s role. The long-range plan was for cpb to establish the Public Broadcasting System which would replace net in making all broadcasting decisions in consultation with individual stations and producers. This institutional restructuring, along with the politically-charged attacks on attention to social justice, effectively cut the fragile safety net on which Black Journal relied. The staff of Black Journal used the community mobilization tactics rooted in the civil rights movement to rally support for the program’s survival. “If the black community across America wants to maintain the show on the air, it must demonstrate its concern through letters, petitions, etc.,” Greaves declared. Articles appeared in local black newspapers and national periodicals like Jet and Ebony proclaiming “Black Journal Must Be Saved.” The Chicago Defender, appealing to its readers’ racial consciousness, asked “will the real ‘Blacks’ step forward and give financial and written encouragement to the producers, technicians and directors of ‘Black Journal’?” Milwaukee’s black newspaper, and its peers across the country, made it a matter of urgency and encouraged readers to bombard their local public television affiliates with postcards expressing their concerns. The hope was that net would use such petitions as ammunition in their fundraising and program planning. Ebony went so far as to predict that Black Journal was going off the air, and quoted Greaves: “It’s an insult to the black community that 10 percent of all network budgets aren’t geared to black programming,” he said. This strategy encouraged black viewers to articulate their stake in having some ownership over public television, and to convey to the network and funding agencies that blacks comprised a constituency to be reckoned with. Black media professionals also had an investment in Black Journal’s success — it presaged the possibility of regular, full-time, black-run programming and employment. One African American organization, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, issued a resolution that urged continuation of the program. An author of the motion, Georgia legislator and sncc veteran Julian Bond, said “The only one-hour Black television program is to be taken off the air. Out of the 1800 hours of air time per month, you would think that Black people would have at least one of these hours.” Similarly, the all-black National Association of Television and Radio Announcers signaled these expectations when they awarded a Golden tv Award to Black Journal at its annual meeting. Black Journal had literally become the “gold standard.”