Digital Divide: Makings of Historic Hustle Play Out in Modern Politics
LOS ANGELES – MTV. HBO. CNN. These cable stations have revolutionized our television viewing experience and our culture as a whole. In 1979, cable was still an emerging technology, but one that brothers Clinton and Carl Galloway knew was worth pursuing.
The Galloway brothers, both young, African-American professionals living in Los Angeles, had a dream of making sure that this technological bridge to the future was equally accessible to the most impoverished area of the city—South Central L.A. They had hoped to use cable to help raise the poorest citizens of Los Angeles out of their dire straights.
In a surprising turn of events, the brothers’ struggle to bring this technology to 180,000 households reached the national level: starting at the local district courts and leading all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. This journey is documented in the new book, Anatomy of a Hustle: Cable Comes to South Central L.A. (Oct 2012), and includes shady politics, greed and a lot of sweat.
Fearing that a monopoly would put cable TV out of reach for this black community and stunt economic progress in the area, the Galloway brothers gathered other well-meaning partners and entered the fray. Despite having the most knowledge and the best financial backing, their application was rejected in favor of a group of well-connected, political contributors and wealthy businessmen. They soon realized that political favoritism was at the heart of the battle.
The brothers sued the city and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They won, proving their First Amendment rights had been violated in the city’s process of awarding cable franchises. The Court remanded the case to the U.S. District Court for Los Angeles for awarding of damages where a city hall-connected Federal judge awarded the brothers one dollar – the apparent value of civil rights in Los Angeles.
This story began with cable television in 1979, but continues today as a larger story about the unholy alliance that has developed between the media and the government, and the corruption of politicians at the local and federal levels.
“The entire cable television industry started in a fashion similar to what happened in L.A. The unconstitutional behavior of various cities and local governments fostered an era of modern media ownership restricted to a few very wealthy individuals and groups,” says Clinton. “This consolidation of the broadcast media accelerated the decline of the independent press. That, in turn, has made the American people ignorant of the power of big business over our government, which potentially threatens the freedoms we all hold so dear. This has never been more apparent than in the 2012 election year.”
CLINTON GALLOWAY is now the president of Galloway & Associates and lives in Los Angeles.