The office of Mignon Clyburn, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, played a role in linking Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Inc., with black media entrepreneur Pluria Marshall Jr. The two parties announced on Friday that Nexstar had agreed to sell Marshall's company three television stations.
Responding to a question about how Nexstar found him, Marshall told Journal-isms by email, "Commissioner Clyburn's office made several recommendations on possible individuals to work with."
Clyburn messaged Journal-isms, however, that "I personally did not make any recommendations." Adonis E. Hoffman, Clyburn's chief of staff and senior legal adviser, said by telephone that Nexstar representatives came to lobby him in March on the controversial issue of joint services agreements, under which one station provides services, such as advertising sales, to another. The FCC was moving to ban such arrangements.
On the way out of the meeting, a Nexstar representative said the company would be interested in finding a minority buyer. Hoffman mentioned Marshall and an Atlanta business. "It was as casual as that," he said. The representatives were familiar with Marshall. Nexstar followed up.
Marshall was asked about an assertion that Nexstar chose a black-owned company as a way to operate three of its stations under thinly disguised shared-services or "sidecar" or joint services agreements. The FCC last month voted 3-2 for the ban but made an exception if the arrangement furthered diversity.
"When the newly invigorated FCC stepped in and threatened to swat the deals down, Nexstar got creative and recruited black media entrepreneur Pluria Marshall Jr. as a 'black beard,'" the subscription-only NewsBlues site asserted on Monday. "Pluria Marshall Jr. will front the three stations in name only, and Nexstar will finance the $58.5 million sale with its own money."
Marshall replied in his email, "You obviously don't know me. I am a seasoned media executive and hands on manager. I run everything I own, always have. The sidecar transactions of the past have been derailed by Chairman [Tom] Wheeler. Our transaction is totally different in form and scope."
The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters said Monday that it had questions about the deal, but that it approved.
Jim Winston, NABOB executive director, said in a statement, "This is the type of transaction NABOB was hoping to see as a result of the new JSA [joint services agreement] rule. Pluria Marshall, Jr. is the type of person, with a long history in radio station ownership and operation, who has the potential to become a successful television station owner and operator. This appears to be the kind of transaction that should receive a waiver of the rule."
The stations involved, all FOX-affiliated, are KMSS-TV in Shreveport, La.; KPEJ-TV in Odessa, Texas; and KLJB-TV in Davenport, Iowa. As president and chief executive officer of Equal Access Media Inc., Marshall owns several newspapers serving African American and minority communities, including the Houston Informer, Texas Freeman, the Los Angeles Wave Newspaper Group and the Los Angeles Independent Publications Group.
If the deal is approved, it would nearly double the tiny number of black-owned, full-power commercial television stations.
Meanwhile, Jessica J. Gonzalez, executive vice president and general counsel of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, is listed among the witnesses to testify Wednesday before a House Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on "Media Ownership in the 21st Century."