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TV One founder Cathy Hughes and BET Founder Bob Johnson Feud over TV Networks

Bobbi Booker | 3/18/2009, 1:52 p.m.

Two of the biggest names in African American media communications are locked in a war of words over the future of minority-owned television outlets. Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), has applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve plans for a new €urban€ television network.

Johnson is joined in his application by Ion Media Networks Inc., which describes itself as €a network television broadcasting company which owns and operates the largest broadcast television station group in the U.S., as measured by the number of television households ION€s stations serve.€ Johnson€s company would own 51 percent of the new venture and Ion 49 percent.The plans for the urban channel have been challenged by TV One Chair Alfred C. Liggins, who heads the largest multimedia company that primarily targets African American and urban listeners, viewers, readers and Internet users.

TV One told the FCC that Johnson€s plan €simply would substitute a government-favored programmer (Urban) for another, such as TV One, that does not receive the government€s favored dispensation.€

The TV One FCC filing in opposition of Johnson€s bid to launch an upstart, urban-targeted network has drawn the ire of Johnson, who expressed his €disappointment€ in both an exclusive interview with the trade publication Broadcasting & Cable and a personal letter to Liggins.

€It does surprise me,€ Johnson told B&C this week. €That€s how TV One came to be €" asking for carriage and insisting that cable operators provide more diversity. To say that cable can€t afford to offer more channels is crazy. And to assume that because another channel comes about that they are going to drop BET makes the case that we need FCC action to get carriage. If we€re the last added and the first dropped, there is something wrong with the system.€

Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization, has pointed out to the FCC that Urban Television€s current application is not in the public interest and its €applications should be dismissed.€