Graves points to WRKS-FM in New York to illustrate his point. "KISS is a not a black-owned station. It is a white-owned station but does better than [black-owned] WBLS does, not because it has a better product, but simply because it’s a [company] that owns a number of stations. Advertisers can then take advantage of buying opportunities across a variety of stations. In other words, if they own three or four stations, when they go in to see Procter & Gamble, they’re seeing Procter & Gamble about their enterprise as a whole. And that’s just a portion of it as opposed to a black-owned station that may have just that one station. In fact, all they can offer up is black. And that by definition is going to decrease their value."
Part and parcel of this initiative, says Conrad, is keeping aware of business ownership opportunities in the new media. "This way we give focus to what kind of strategies should be developed in order to ensure we don’t just preserve black newspapers and radio, but that we effectively utilize the new technologies available so we’re not forced to beg people to let us on, but have vehicles we control."
And the question of potential legal action was raised by Boston. "If federal monies are involved in this advertising, I would think Title VI will prohibit any agency that discriminates from receiving federal dollars. So I’m wondering what will be the scope of that or if that’s being investigated?"
According to Hitchcock, while the NAACP has benchmarks, the survey was designed in such a way that it went out generally to a broad range of companies that do business within a wide spectrum. "So the process you’re talking about — where you really benchmark component parts of the business for an accurate assessment of activity — happens in the monitoring sessions that we have as follow-ups to the surveys, so that when we’re sitting at the table with the chairman, vice president, CEO or COO and talking about the current situation, they don’t get much past us," she says.
However, Simms was concerned about the lone franchisee who could potentially come out on the short end of the NAACP’s examination. "So let’s say you were a franchise of Marriott and the decisions that were made at the top weren’t your decisions. So that franchisee says I’m being penalized because this operation that just happens to have the same name is making these decisions that I don’t agree with and I’ve got a really great operation here."
Responds Hitchcock: "I’ve heard that and my cold response is write your chairman. Leverage up. We need you to complain to that corporate entity that they aren’t doing business in a way that is conducive to our community. We are not adjusting our national policy to accommodate what individual properties are doing."
Conrad notes that in both initiatives, there was a factor that boded well