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Making A Difference Running Against The Wind (Media) by Harold Bell

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KEN BURNS 40 YEARS WITH PBS

In a recent U. S. A. Today’s story written by Scooby Axson titled. “PBS doc captures Ali’s vigor,”  let me say right at the top, there is some good news and there is some bad news regarding the documentary and the Ali story. The good news first, the documentary was enlightening and a historical piece of black history. The research and the storytelling were magnificent. Burns and his partner Johnathan Eig with family members, daughter, Sara, and son-in-law, Dave kept the story flowing for four straight nights. There were few dull moments in the production.

The bad news, the production was a well-done professional “Cut/Paste” meaning that 80% of the film clips were in the Public Domain. Meaning, if you had the time, finances, researchers, and PBS as your homecourt, dozens of Black Americans could have produced the same product with a richer sense of history, because many of us have walked in Muhammad Ali’s shoes. We are still starting the race 10 yards behind.

Columnist Axson of U. S.A. Today pointed out, “For as much as Burns has contributed to chronicling different aspects of the world through his documentaries, he is still dogged by the various grievances about PBS’ perceived lack of commitment to diversity. The tipping point was earlier this year when dozens of BIPOC documentary filmmakers signed a letter, which was given to the network’s executives. Among the complaints in the letter was accusing PBS of having “systemic failure to fulfill (its) mandate for a diversity of voices and its issues of Burns four-decades partnership with PBS, which many have noted as an interdependence.” 

Ken Burns and Black documentaries have become American as Apple Pie on PBS. This would be called a monopoly in any other endeavor. The problem with BIPOC they are too busy being Exclusive instead of Inclusive. They cannot see the forest for the trees (GOOGLE). Their complaints against PBS are well-founded, but who is playing fair and show me an “Even Playing Field?”

In 2021 a media press room at the deadline is second only to a church on Sunday as one of the most segregated institutions in America. Sportswriter William Rhoden’s best seller “40 Million Dollar Slaves” is a joke. He is the kettle calling the pot black!

One of the problems, blacks in America don’t own any Major Media outlets, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX News control our history and the images of us seen on their television screens and in their newspapers. The ones who claim they are black-owned are perpetrating a fraud. Urban Radio One is own by Comcast. In January Comcast announced a television network partnership with Cathy Hughes.

Don’t believe the hype, Comcast will still make the final decision on programming. TV One has not been allowed to broadcast any high-profile sporting events in its history. The new television partnership with Comcast may change that perception. Hughes has been the spook that sat behind the door for decades.

W-H-U-R Radio and WHUT television are located on the Howard University campus (HBCU). The two stations have black-oriented formats, but they are controlled by Federal Government funding.

The closest black media own television network is with former Republican Senator J. C. Watts and his Black News Channel (BNC). Watts is the co-founder and chairman of the independently owned black channel. The 24/7 network launched in 2020. Watts says BNC will be more than just crime reports and sports scores. “I don’t want us to follow in the footsteps of CNN and Fox News”, said WattsOnly time will tell! Hispanics have their own television channels, including a Major League Baseball channel!

The greatest Muhammad Ali story has not been written or produced yet. I have the copyrights and original footage of my exclusive one-on-one interview with “The Greatest” in 1974. When Ali’s plane landed in the Big Apple on a Sunday evening from Zaire, Africa five days after “The Rumble in the Jungle”, he didn’t call Ed Bradley (60 Minutes)Bryant Gumble (NBC Good Morning America), or Howard Cosell (ABC Wide World of Sports), he called me, Harold Bell a little known sports talk show host/pioneer in Washington, DC.

The rest is American sports talk show history. I was the first to interview the champ on his arrival in New York City after he shocked the world with his historical 8th round knockout of the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion, my friend George Foreman.

The interview made me the first black journalist ever to interview an undisputed heavyweight champion one on one. It was a night I will never forget, Saturday, October 30, 2021 will mark the 47th anniversary of “The Rumble in the Jungle.”  I have had my interview for 47 years, Ken Burns knew I had it. He sent his partner Johnathan Eig to try to talk me out of it, but I said, “No money-No Mas.  The pimping and suppression of Black History stops with me.

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