Friday, July 20, 2012

`Democracy Now!' and FAIR/`CounterSpin''s Park Foundation Connection--Part 2

Mrs. Park is the Personal Representative of the Estate of Roy H. Park, former Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Company and holder of…89.65% of the Company's outstanding Common Stock. 18,684,505 of the shares…are held by Mrs. Park…Under Mr. Park's will, an amount of shares previously held by Mr. Park equal to 51% of the Company's outstanding Common Stock was bequeathed to Park Foundation, Inc….Mrs. Park is the Secretary and one of three current members of the Board of Directors of Park Foundation. The other two Directors of Park Foundation are Wright M. Thomas (President, Chief Operating Officer and a Director of the Company) and Adelaide Park Gomer, daughter of Dorothy D. Park and the late Roy H. Park…The residue of Mr. Park's Estate…was also bequeathed to Park Foundation. On March 25, 1994, at a Special Meeting of the Company's Board of Directors, Mrs. Park…informed the Company of the Estate's decision to sell the Estate-held shares of the Company. In response to this announcement, the Board voted to seek a sale of the entire Company…Park Foundation has consented to the decision to sell the Estate-held shares…”

--from a 3/31/94 SEC filing of Park Communications

Democracy Now! and FAIR/CounterSpin’s Park Foundation Connection—Part 2

Not surprisingly, much of the tax-exempt “charitable” grant money that the Park Foundation has been pouring into alternative media groups like Democracy Now! Productions, Mother Jones magazine and F.A.I.R./CounterSpin and into subsidizing various PBS news-oriented programming in recent years is derived from the $3 million-plus in Wall Street dividends and interest that it obtains annually from a Park Foundation stock and bonds portfolio—whose fair market value exceeded $233.5 million in 2010, according to the Park Foundation’s Form 990 financial filing.

Until Roy Park’s family sold its Park Communications media empire for $711.4 million in October 1994 to an Alabama real estate developer and a Lexington, Kentucky stockbroker (who subsequently re-sold the media properties to the Media General media conglomerate in 1996), most of the Park family’s Park Foundation “charitable” grant money was apparently derived from owning around 90 percent of the stock in Park Communications—whose annual revenues exceeded $148 million in the late 1980s.

Prior to October 26, 1983, 100 percent of the stock in the Park family’s mainstream media empire was just owned by Roy Park and not sold on any of the Wall Street stock exchanges. And in their 1980 edition, the editors of Everybody’s Business: An Almanac described how Roy H. Park went about accumulating much of the surplus wealth that he later used to set up his tax-exempt Park Foundation:

“…He has stations in a dozen cities stretching from Birmingham, Alabama, to Seattle, Washington. The biggest of his TV stations is Birmingham’s WBMG, a CBS affiliate...There’s nothing to stop Park from gathering newspapers. And he keeps picking them up, one after another. In mid-1980 he had 42 under his belt, all small-town papers: 17 are dailies, 12 are weeklies; and 13 are shoppers’ weeklies that are given away…

“Park operates through a maze of companies—about 50 of them—and they are not consolidated under any one corporation…The two principal corporate entities are Park Broadcasting and Park Newspapers. But Park’s interests extend to other areas too; he’s in the outdoor advertising business (renting billboard space), and he’s active in real estate. How much of his estimated $60 million annual sales comes from publishing and broadcasting is not known, nor is Park required to tell anyone. His companies are private…In addition to his media empire, Roy Park owns citrus groves in Florida, a real estate enterprise in South Carolina, farm and timberlands in North Carolina, and a lot of real estate in Ithaca, including 88,000 square feet at the Terrace Hill complex…”

In 1980, for example, the Park family owned the following mainstream television and radio broadcasting stations:

1. WTVR-TV (CBS) and WTVR-AM/FM in Richmond, Virginia;

2. WBMG-TV (CBS) in Birmingham, Alabama;

3. WNCT-TV (CBS) and WNCT-AM/FM in Greenville, North Carolina;

4. WDEF-TV (CBS) and WDEF-AM/FM in Chattanooga, Tennessee;

5. WJHL-TV (CBS) in Johnson City, Tennessee;

6. WUTR-TV (ABC) Utica, New York;

7. WHEN-AM and WONO-FM in Syracuse, New York;

8. KEZX-FM in Seattle, Washington;

9. KWJJ-AM and KJIB-FM in Portland, Oregon;

10. WNAX-AM in Yankton, South Dakota; and

11. KRSI-AM/FM in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Yet in the early 1970s the Black Broadcasting Coalition [BBC] of Richmond opposed the FCC’s renewal, without any hearing, of the licenses of the Roy H. Park Broadcasting of Virginia, Inc. to operate the Park family’s WTVR-TV and WTVR-AM/FM television and radio stations in Richmond because of its stations' alleged racial discrimination in employment during the 1969-1972 license period and the inadequacy of their affirmative action effort both during and after that period. As the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit and District judges observed in an April 20, 1977 decision in the Black Broadcasting Coalition of Richmond vs. FCC and Roy H. Park Broadcasting of Virginia, Inc. case:

“…. In short, the record disclosed responsible claims that WTVR had engaged in overt discrimination…In addition…BBC hotly contested the adequacy of WTVR's efforts to reach out into the minority community to recruit qualified or qualifiable minority employees…Perhaps the best statement of WTVR's attitude toward its obligation to reach into the community to develop contacts is its response to BBC's uncontested allegation that WTVR had had no contact with any of the black organizations which routinely assisted minority applicants in getting jobs…Appellant also alleged that the stations' initial ascertainment of community needs was defective in that it ignored the attitudes of blacks who lived outside the City of Richmond and took insufficient account of black interests within the City, which has a 42 percent black population…In the year immediately following BBC's petition to deny, WTVR hired six additional black employees. In the next year, however, only two and then one black was added, although total employment at the station increased by nine….Similarly, the movement of blacks into the upper four job categories…after an immediate increase by five in 1973, has slowed to two and then zero. Such a pattern of minority hiring and advancement is at best erratic and at worst demonstrates a declining trend…”

The small-town newspapers that the Park family’s Park Newspaper firm published were apparently quite profitable in some cases. For example “when Roy Park owned the [Jeffersonville, Indiana] Evening News, profit margins reached 40 percent,” according to an article by Mary Walton, titled “The Selling Of Small-town America,” that appeared in the May 1999 issue of American Journalism Review. And on October 26, 1983, Roy Park’s private company went “public” and began to sell some of its stock to Wall Street investors, when “the Company made a public offering of 2,219,625 shares…of the Company’s Common Stock, representing 9.5 percent of the total shares,” according to a 1995 S.E.C. financial filing.

Coincidentally, between August 22, 1983 and Roy Park’s death in October 1993, a former U.S. Senator from Virginia named Harry F. Byrd Jr. (who replaced his father, Harry Byrd Sr., in the U.S. Senate as Virginia’s representative in 1965 and held his family’s U.S. Senate seat there until 1983) sat next to Roy Park on the board of directors of Park Communications. According to Wikipedia, former Park Communications board member Byrd Jr. “like his father” had “a very conservative voting record;” and “in 1971, Byrd proposed a bill to allow the importation of various metals from Rhodesia, contradicting the position of…the United Nations Security Council which forbade most forms of trade or financial exchange with Rhodesia, which had a white-controlled government” and “the 1971 Byrd Amendment allowed Rhodesia to evade these sanctions.” Wikipedia also noted that:

“…Even as a senator, Byrd contributed regular editorial content to his newspapers, blending journalism and politics…Byrd served as Chairman of the Board of the Winchester Star that had been owned by the family for more than 100 years until 1990, and did not hire an African-American reporter until 2000…”

(end of part 2)

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