Film / TV

all these ‘black’ films & shows are owned by white media, how much of the money goes to the community that supports them?

January 24, 2018
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Last week, we wrote about how the CW’s first live action superhero show with a Black lead, Black Lightning, had a fantastic premiere, touching on community issues that sorely need to be discussed on a broader scale. We are nearly exploding waiting for Marvel’s Black Panther, which promises even a more Blackity Blackness, and 2018 as a whole is shaping up to be one of the fullest we’ve ever seen, as far as Black representation in media is concerned.

But amidst our warranted excitement, it’s worth noting that almost all of these projects are still owned by or beholden to white media establishments. They amass their success by our efforts to see ourselves, but are they giving anything back?

According to Nielsen’s Young, Connected and Black report, advertising placed on programming with greater than 50% of Black viewers increased 255% between 2011 and 2015, due to viewers flocking to increased diversity.

“Relative to the increased diversity on TV and also in movies,” reports Nielsen, “black viewers of all ages (especially black Millennials) are helping to elevate up-and-coming black talent and content, which are the forefront of a continued trend toward diversity among these and other media platforms.”

So these company’s know they can bank on us, and bank they do. Black Lightning‘s CW is owned by CBS and Time Warner, which are valued at $29.5 billion and $76.2 billion respectively (Forbes). Black Panther is produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Disney, valued at $178 billion (Forbes). We are making these obscenely rich companies richer, is seeing ourselves on TV enough to get in return?

Of course, these companies do have charitable arms (Disney claims to give back $400 million a year, only 0.2% of its value), but it is hard to measure that against what they make, or to qualify those contributions in terms of their effect. We know that these Black stories often feature Black products (Black Lightning shouted out AFROPUNK in their premiere), and hire loads of Black people for their production, but given that the amount of free press they receive from Black media does not make a dent their massive marketing campaign budgets, it’s worth asking how much those who prop them up receive in return.

For instance, one Black journalist accused Marvel of overlooking Black journalists in covering Black Panther in a series of now-deleted tweets.

It’s always worth looking into how the white media outlets spend their money, how much they invest in the community, and if they are otherwise harmful to those who support them.