It is not.
Thought technically it is Black-owned — Johnson maintains majority ownership — it is far from being Black operated. As previously reported by NewsOne, the Hall of Famer was forthright when announcing his lucrative partnership with Atlanta-based GMC, formerly referred to as Gospel Music Channel. What he did not share was that the primarily White company would be in control of programming.
“I’m a great believer in partnerships,” Johnson said in a phone interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution last June. “If I didn’t partner with GMC, I wouldn’t be in the business. We needed someone with some expertise. I thought it was a natural fit.”
But did Johnson buy in or sell-out?
Aspire is run by GMC TV executives, most of whom are White. Johnson made no attempt to even entertain procuring Black business to partner with him, manage or even participate in this endeavor. Though he claimed the deal to be “sound business” and “change,” change has not come. Johnson’s business relationship with GMC is “sound,” but there has been none of the projected influx of uplifting and positive Black programming on basic cable television — which, after all, was the purpose and the promise. We, the public, are asking Johnson to be a man of his word.
Aspire was birthed from the demand for more diversity. After a year-long federal review of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal, California U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters ((D-Los Angeles) stepped in to ensure that after and made sure the deal Comcast would give U.S minorities the opportunity to develop minority networks. With this on the table, it opened the doors to broadcasting opportunities for people of color that had not been available before.
There is just one little problem: After the door to opportunity was opened for authentic Black programming, it was told to go have a seat in the corner.
After Johnson and GMC signed on the dotted line, he wasted no time turning over all managerial control to them. This is a clear conflict of interest as not only don’t White executives have their finger on the pulse of the Black community, GMC is virtually a direct competitor to Aspire TV. This revelation comes over a year after Johnson began running all over the place telling everyone who would listen that Aspire is a “Black” network and that he was going to change “Black TV.”
GMC, a direct competitor and now the NEW management for Aspire TV, did not go out and try to get top talent or even attempt to acquire people who had previous experience in the key roles. They moved unqualified people over to fill critical rolls like Director of Programming and General Manager, but all final decisions are made by GMC executive management and they are all White.
- Charles Humbard, Founder and CEO
- Leslie Chesloff EVP Programming
- Brad Siegel, vice-chairman of GMC
- Sopia Kelly SVP Programming and Aspire TV
Director of Programming Tina Thompson — who is also White — has no Executive-level experience in her career history and now she is running programming for a start up network?
There really only seems to be one reason GMC put unqualified people in place instead of going out and getting people who knew how to launch programming and this is so they keep control. Essentially, GMC has no good reason to make Aspire TV a great property. It would just take valuable market share from GMC.
So what do we have? More of the same – White network executives dictating what is watched and when it is watched. Magic Johnson and his team have no hand in hiring, marketing, deal making and most importantly programming. This complete lack of control and/or interest on the part of Magic Johnson and his team is like a slap in the face of minorities – not just Black people but people of color period. And this lack of programming diversity is shameful and disgusting.
Corporate America wants the minority population to buy their products, support their businesses and watch their shows but they cannot even respect that same segment of the population, nor take the initiative and produce and air programming that represents them.
Even more insulting, the programming on Aspire TV lacks “programming” period. This is the schedule that is
currently being run on Aspire TV:
- The Flip Wilson Show — early 1970s
- The Bill Cosby Show — late 1960s
- I Spy — mid 1960s
- Julia — early1970s
- Soul Train — early 1970s
The fact that there is no innovative or creative contemporary content is egregious — but this is when it get embarrassing.
First, the channel is nothing less than terrible and surely if you ask people they will agree. No one talks about Aspire TV online. You can only find posts about Aspire pre-September. The line-up has been about the same since the network debuted last June. They recycle these shows up to 7 times a day each. No one can keep watching this day after day for months on end. Clearly, GMC and Johnson are not taking their audience seriously.
This blotch in programming, management and the overall suspect position of Aspire TV gives cause to believe that this is all a sham. A sham just to give Comcast a quick buy of NBC, the United States government goodwill, Johnson another “sound business” notch under his belt, and GMC a contract to babysit and a pay check.
If Magic is serious about giving minorities a chance why did he not get seek a qualified minority company to manage Aspire? Surely, there has to be one that could do a great job somewhere in a country of 330,000,000 people. Isn’t that the reason Rep. Waters got involved? Isn’t that the deal for Comcast to buy NBC? Is this sleight-of-hand?
Magic could have helped so many minority companies by supporting minority companies. But it looks like he wanted to “buy, lie and fly” — similarly to other White companies called to the carpet for their lack of diversity.
Everyone wins here but the viewers. What we get is 7 episodes of Flip Wilson every single day for 8 months and the Bill Cosby Show (from the 1960s) on 12 times — 12 times in one 24 hour period.
Many questions arise from this deal and maybe one of the biggest is: “Where is the money?” Magic Johnson Entertainment and GMC by virtue of management signed a huge deal with Coke-a-Cola, so where is the money? Where is the incentive money the federal government signed over to this “Black-owned and operated” business?
No one is trying to trash Magic Johnson but the fact remain that he founded and promoted a minority-owned and operated network, obtained millions in advertising dollars from such big brand advertisers as Coca Cola, L’Oreal, Chrysler, Wal-Mart and Nationwide Insurance, put a complete management team in place that lacked a single person of color at all, waived control of programming and is now running shows from the 50’s and 60’s. With all the facts in our face — and all the lack of interest on the part of Magic Johnson and Magic Johnson Entertainment — it appears as though he sold out Black business for a quick profit. That is dishonest and we should demand better from our community business leaders than a mime of White corporations. And if we cannot get better, we should demand accountability.
Attached to this article is a petition to force the hand of Johnson and his team to take action to rectify this situation immediately. If we as a people cannot stand on our word and our bond then what are we left with? Lies, neglect and once again the wool being pulled over our eyes. Please sign the petition by clicking below and share via social networks and friends.
Magic Johnson Selling Out Black Businesses for Profit: Force Magic Johnson to run Aspire TV as a Black Owned and Operated Business