Bamboozled: Broadcast Media Demonization
For the most part, Blacks are overwhelmingly portrayed as criminals without any redeeming value and our communities are shown as breeding pens for crimes and social disorder.
ON MEDIA DEMONIZATION
As the licenses of the television stations are up for renewal as of June 1st in the New York area,
we are asking all concerned citizens that live in this area to express their outrage to the FCC and
to ask that the licenses of WABC-TV,WCBS-TV, WNBC-TV and Fox 5 not be renewed.
The letter must be received by May 31st and a copy should go to the stations as well.
For more information please go www.fcc.gov/localism/renew_process_handout.doc
Please click on the rather lengthy link below to view the news clipping by WABC-TV and see if the
Black man shown is smoking drugs, as implied by WABC-TV, or is it a cigarette butt?
(After reviewing the video several times I believe it is a cigarette butt. But the point is that WABC-
TV did not know what the man was doing and did not verify what he was smoking before wrecklessly
portraying him as a drug user.)
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Now, please click below and go to this news clip by WCBS-TV and see if the Black men that
are shown are actually selling crack, cocaine, drugs and guns. Yet the news voice over certainly
makes them appear to be drug and gun dealers.
Are they doing anything illegal for that matter? Upon close examination one can easily see that
these men were doing nothing more than entering and leaving a building.
In both of the cases above images of Black men who were not doing anything illegal were
deliberately manipulated by the media to make it appear that they were engaged in
The “Tri State Like It Is Support Coalition” is challenging the licenses of the television stations
in the New York/Metropolitan area (WNBC-TV, WABC-TV, WCBS-TV -- the complaint against Fox 5 is
forthcoming) for their deliberate promotion of a White Superiority/Black inferiority paradigm which
places White people as the heroes, the bearers of good news , the redeemers and the voices of reason.
Blacks and other people of color are systemically whited out of these roles.
For the most part, Blacks are overwhelmingly portrayed as criminals without any redeeming
value and our communities are shown as breeding pens for crimes and social disorder.
Nowhere is this construct more apparent then on what passes everyday as local news programming.
What's more, studies show that watching local news exacerbates racism in society to the detriment
of the Black community.
People's perspectives on society and culture are greatly influenced by the local news as people tend
to believe what is reported. And the strong anti Black sentiment that is projected from the newsroom,
contrasted with the dearth of positive images of Black people, exacts a heavy toll on Black Americans.
To prepare our complaints we viewed a combined total of 189 news clips from the three stations.
While our findings are not surprising, they are none the less very alarming, for out of those 189 clips,
only a mere 8 clips featured Black people in a positive news segment that was not about crime.
By featured we mean those persons that were interviewed or that were a main aspect of the segment.
It should also be noted that the news reporters were not taken into account in our study as their roles
are peripheral to the news that is being reported.
In addition to examining the subjects in the news clips, we examined the various roles that each one played.
Who was the voice of authority/hero? Who was the victim? Who was the suspect/perpetrator? Who was the
Who was the bringer of good news? The clips were categorized as follows: 97 were about hard news stories
(i.e. murder, rape, drugs, etc) and 92 were about informative/good news (i.e. entertainment, informational, fun,
Of the 97 hard news clips Blacks were featured in 65 of them and in 45 of them they were portrayed as the
suspect or the criminal. However, in only six were they shown as the hero or the crime fighter.
White people on the other hand were portrayed as the suspect/criminal in only 17 video clips. However, they
were portrayed in a staggering 78 of the crime videos as the voice of authority/hero. So it is that every time a
White person is portrayed in a negative way, a White authoritarian figure/hero is always shown to counter the
negative image. For Black people in the news, the heroic figure is almost non-existent.
Now contrast these numbers to the numbers of Black people featured in the "good news" segments.
Out of 92 clips Black people are only featured in 8 of them. And in at least half of the 8, they are seen but not heard.
White people on the other hand were prominently featured in 88 of them. Whereas one can argue when reporting hard crime
stories that the reporters have little choice in who the people are in the segment, as they are merely reporting events
as they are unfolding, the same can not be said for covering the good news segments. In these the reporter usually
chooses the people that are to be featured in the footage.
Of particular interest is the way in which segments involving education were covered. Whereas Black parents and children
were occasionally interviewed, Black educators were never interviewed. Only White ones were. This was true even in predominantly Black school districts.
The effects of such programming are not merely limited to our living rooms, but rather frame every aspect of our society,
from the school yards, to the prison yards, to the court yards. The damage that a daily deluge of non-stop degrading images has on the Black community is incalculable, yet is felt in so many ways.
The Amadou Diallos, the Sean Bells, double digit unemployment rates and schools that are under funded are every day
realities in Black communities.
While this Coalition makes no attempt to oversimplify these issues by ascribing sole blame to television
viewing habits, the mass media is certainly at the helm of the matrix. Its reach is pervasive and we must hold Broadcasters accountable. We must start by taking this fight to the FCC.
Davis is Chairperson of Tri State Like It Is Support Coalition
For more information call (973)447-0623 or visit www.savelikeitis.org
To subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly
investigative newspaper, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to
“Speaking Truth To Empower.”
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