Friday, May 18, 2007

68: One-On-One with Johnathan Rodgers, TVOne

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PURE PROGRAMMING...This week kicks off with news about noted playwright David E. Talbert who definitely seems to be on a roll. He just mounted another theatre success--Love In A Nick of Tyme--and now Johnathan Rodgers, CEO/President of TV One tells The A-List, they have picked up a Talbert reality series, sort of the Urban version of "The Starlet." "The show will [document the search for] actors for a new theatrical production," says Rodgers. While BET, now in its 28th year, is just "starting to provide original programming. We don't want to wait. We want to give our viewers original programming now," says Rodgers of the three-year-old TV One. "David E. Talbert Presents Stage Black" will premiere this summer along with another new series called "G. Garvin: The Road Tour." "G. Garvin" features the star chef touring culinary hot spots and exploring new food trends in Chicago, NY, L.A. and Atlanta. The series is produced for TV One by Powerhouse Productions. "David E. Talbert's Stage Black" is produced by Edmonds Entertainment in conjunction with Talbert; Blair Underwood acts as one of the judges and producers. While these two programs aren't originally scripted but are rather reality shows, TV One does seems more than a step ahead of its competitors in original Urban programming. Could the Urban power players finally be both waking up and accessing capital at the same time to do what mainstream has enjoyed for years? If so, hold onto to your hats because we just may not be in Kansas anymore, Shaniqua. What was everyone waiting for?

CAN WE TALK?...As you kick back and watch the Sunday news talk shows, have you ever noticed that there is someone missing? According to a new study by liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America, Sunday news talk shows aired by U.S. television networks are overwhelmingly dominated by white men. Women, Blacks and Latinos having little or no presence. Blacks made up about 7% of those appearing on most of the programs, said the group, which studied four network Sunday news talk shows (ABC News' "This Week," CBS News' "Face the Nation," NBC News' "Meet the Press" and Fox News' "Fox News Sunday,") over two years. Latinos made up about 1% and about one in five guests were women.

DIALING UP AD DOLLARS...AOL's recent purchase of Third Screen Media is raising a few eyebrows in the industry--consumer advocacy groups and other mobile entertainment players. "The recent purchase of ScreenTonic by Microsoft and Third Screen Media by AOL is sending a clear signal to mobile consumers that they should get ready to start seeing advertisements on cell phones very soon. Although mobile advertising is still in its infancy, it is predicted to be a billion dollar market in less than 5 years, and it looks like many of the big brands are counting on it as a new source of future revenues," Anne Baker, Vice President of Marketing at Action Engine, an on-device portal company, tells The A-List. "The question that remains is: Do these companies have the technology in place to make the experience of receiving mobile advertising on the phone simple and non-intrusive to the consumer? Recent studies all point to a lack of consumer tolerance for cell phone advertisements that are irrelevant, slow to load, and screen space intensive. If the big brands don't combine their new mobile advertising investments with the technology necessary to deliver the advertisements in a consumer-friendly manner, they have the potential of driving consumers further away from the mobile Internet and causing real damage to their brands." Thing is, however it's set up, what ad dollars are pegged for hitting the multicultural market?

URBAN FLICKS GET WARDROBE CHANGE...Crash meets Reservoir Dogs. That's how the folks behind a new Urban flick filming in Atlanta describe Naked. The feature stars Terri J. Vaughn and are they shooting some hush-hush celeb cameos. No word on who just yet, but we can give you a brief breakdown. The synopsis: A voyeur conducts an experiment on six tenants of an historic apartment building, each of whom have particular habits that some would consider addictions, to see how they interact with one another. There's a hypochondriac graduate psychology student with an obsessive husband; a resident con artist with a sex addict girlfriend; a compulsive gambler; and an anorexic model in debt. Bottom line: an environment fraught with drama. Minority led, Atlanta-based Cenergy Entertainment, which produced Angels Can't Help But Laugh, a documentary on the lives of 25 black Hollywood actresses, is the production company behind the indie. Writer and director is CaS Sigers, who created Cenergy. According to Cenergy, they are in talks for distribution deals for Naked. Right now, the company plans on wrapping production by Aug. and have it premiere Oct./Nov. with it making the film festival circuit spring/summer 2008. If done correctly Naked could mark a turn for artsy, edgy films for Urban audiences.

SOUND OF MUSIC...Listen up music supervisors. Here's something that might make getting that film or TV show soundtrack together a little easier. The Orchard (, a digital distributor and marketer of independent music, and MusicIP, a leader in digital music technology, have just announced a collab that will harness the power of MusicIP's MusicSearchTM technology in a new search facility called "TrackdownTM", which The Orchard will offer to select music supervisors and other industry professionals. MusicIP's MusicSearchTM technology lets TrackdownTM users search on millions of terms--including familiar mainstream artists and titles--returning musically similar matches from The Orchard's catalogue. The perk: The Orchard will initially provide the TrackdownTM search facility to music supervisors in film, television and advertising, offering navigation of The Orchard's licensing catalogue, which represents every music genre.

BIG HAIR TEASE...New Line is pulling out all the stops for the upcoming release film Hairspray. We just got word that New Line Records, the studio's music arm, will release the official soundtrack with songs performed by cast members John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Brittany Snow and Elijah Kelley to digital download, audio and video ringtones prior to the film's July 20th release. It's cool that they are taking a fully integrated approach but where are these same marketing geniuses when it comes to Urban flicks?

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM...Will lightening strike twice? BET is hoping so as they gear up for this year's BET Awards. Last year, the show proved to be a ratings boom--it was in fact cable's top-rated awards show last year--even beating out the MTV Awards. So, back again is hostess with the mostess Mo'Nique. But ratings just may rely on who the nominees are. And earlier this week, in case you missed it, the nominees were announced at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood. Hip-Hop actors/rappers 50 Cent and TI along with R&B singer Robin Thicke and "Everybody Hates Chris" cast member Tichina Arnold delivered the lucky names. Of course, Reginald Hudlin, BET President of Entertainment, and Stephen Hill, BET Executive Vice President for Entertainment and Music Programming/BET Awards Executive Producer were also on hand--and on time, this time. The nominees include: Beyonce who is up for six awards; earning three nods each are Jennifer Hudson, Ciara, Akon and Gnarls Barkley. The three-hour telecast is set for June 26 at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium. Diana Ross will receive the BET's 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award and among the performers are 50 Cent and T.I. And you know, The A-List will be there.

SCREENING FOR CHARITY...Films and good works. A great combination. If you're in Brooklyn, head over to the Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts at Long Island University (on the Brooklyn Campus) for the fifth annual "An Evening of Shorts" Film Festival on May 23. This year's Festival will feature 8-10 short films created by members of the local filmmakers, parents and teachers. Proceeds go toward student music training enrichment programs, after school tutoring programs and more. For info, visit


A few weeks ago we told you about a new alliance of multicultural media outlets who got together to form the Alliance for Diversity in Programming (ADP). But we wanted to find out more about the new organization (which includes Sí TV, TV One, The Africa Channel, Black Leadership Forum, Hispanic Federation, Hispanic Telecommunications, and Technology Partnership) so we spoke with Johnathan Rodgers, CEO/President of Black-owned network TV One, who co-chairs the ADP ( with Michael Schwimmer, CEO of Sí TV, a network aimed at Latino youth.

The A-List: Why was it necessary to launch ADP?
Johnathan Rodgers: It was created in response to the continuing interest of some in Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create regulations that would force cable operators to offer programming on a per-channel basis. These per-channel-pricing, or à la carte, regulations, have been decried by civil rights groups and other organizations as harmful to minority and niche cable channels.

AL: What is the problem with a la carte?
JR: Nearly every government and private study has made clear that per-channel-charge requirements will harm and even reduce the amount of minority and targeted cable programming available while raising prices for most consumers.

AL: How does this affect the minority viewer?
JR: The recent progress in the creation of dedicated program networks for African-American, Latino and Asian-American audiences would undoubtedly be set back by such heavy handed federal regulations.

AL: How are you getting the word out to people in the industry and consumers?
JR: By talking to as many people as I can. By speaking to the American public. A la carte may save them money, but they will have less choice. If you go by the choices of say a [typical] White male you might just have the basic networks and ESPN. But not everyone will want to view these channels. What if you'd like to see the Oxygen Network? That is what will happen with a la carte. You will have less variety, less choice. This is my fear. America won't have the choice of seeing another viewpoint. Shared tier, which is what we have now, offers an important societal value because viewers who aren't African American or Hispanic--and would be less likely to purchase TV One or Sí TV on an à la carte basis--have the opportunity to stop and watch something on these networks that catches their interest and expands their awareness about African American and Hispanic cultures and traditions.

AL: Do you feel the government is getting too involved in television viewing?
JR: I don't want violence on my television, but I can make better decision [than the government] as to what I want to watch and what my children should watch. I should be the one to pick my programming.
AL: Will the alliance continue after the a la carte issue is resolved?
JR: Right now, that is the only issue we are focused on. And it is a major issue not only for niche networks like ourselves but for consumers as well.


GRAB A MIC...Just when it seems Hip Hop is in flux with its status on radio and airwaves, MTV announces it is in a development deal to produce "Rapping With the Stars," a new Hip-Hop themed competitive reality show. In it, wannabes will be paired with professional rappers and compete for recording contracts. According to Variety, Tony DiSanto, who has executive produced such MTV shows as "Run's House," will oversee the project. Also in the mix are Giuliana DePandi from E!, Kimber Rickabaugh and Paul Miller from RickMill Prods and 3Arts. Judges will include names from the rap world. Good for DiDanto and Co. but does MTV actually not have any producers of color over there who could think this stuff up and finally get some shine. Not since Jac Benson back in the day have we had anyone Black actually running an Urban show. Could someone tell us what is up with that before we camp out at Sumner's Beverly Park crib and picket. Enough is enough!

LIFE & TIMES...The folks over at DC Comics gave us a heads up about a new project on their plate: Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm, by first time graphic novel writer Percy Carey, a legend in underground Hip Hop. Carey's memoir is a coming-of-age story of turf wars and emcee battles that begins in a most unexpected place--the set of Sesame Street where a young Carey had his first taste of celebrity. Years later he recorded with MF Doom and performed with Tupac Shakur, the Dogg Pound and Snoop Dogg. On sale this September from Vertigo. With rapper David Banner just starting his Cartoon Network series "The Crook'd Sipp" and one for OutKast on board, we're sure a TV animation deal can't be too far off for Carey.

According to a new study, Internet censorship is growing, with 26 out of 40 countries blocking or filtering political or social content. The survey conducted by experts with the OpenNet Initiative at four leading universities discovered that web surfers in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa were often denied access to information about politics, sexuality, culture or religion. Experts at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Toronto found that censorship varied by country. South Korea heavily censored only one topic; Iran, China and Saudi Arabia blocked both a range of topics. The study also listed six countries as "pervasive" filterers of political information: Myanmar, China, Iran, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam. And, they grouped seven countries as "pervasive" social filterers: Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Social filtering also happens in such countries as France and Germany, where websites that deny the Holocaust or promote Nazism are blocked.


The Tribeca Film Festival once again reved up NYC and the film industry. What you didn't get was our take. So here it is. Soak it up and then get ready for next year's.

With hundreds of screening to navigate through it become very easy to get caught up in the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival even in jaded NYC.

The options were enormous and jumping head first into the first available theatre seat; club venue or performance stage seemed the only logical option. The festival once again failed to disappoint. As you probably know by now, this years' record-breaking blockbuster Spiderman 3 premiered during Tribeca.

On the other end of the spectrum there was this interesting piece of celluloid called Live, a reality TV show about contestants who play Russian Roulette with a loaded gun. Amusing right? Well may be not. But about every concept you could possibly fathom was represented at the festival. Here's a snapshot of what we took in.

Lillie & Leander: A Legacy of Violence--Documentary (USA; Director: Jeffrey Morgan) Tells the story of Alice Brewton Hurwitz's investigation into the turn-of-the-century murder of her great-great aunt by an African-American man, Leander Shaw in Pensacola, Fl, and his lynching. The film explores this supposed truth and how it dissolves into an all too common ugly racist reality. What makes this documentary stand out is that viewers could leave it believing that Hurwitz and her community is searching for justice or you could think they are just seeking some relief from White guilt. Then again you could be left vacillating between these two conclusions. How you process this explosive material will probably depend on your status in the racial psyche of America.

On the Downlow–Documentary (USA; Director: Abigail Child) With Cleveland, Ohio, as it backdrop, Child's seeks to present the portraits of four African-American men living the secretive and much previously hyped lifestyle of living on the " DL". You know men who sleep with men but try to past as straight. Child's give a rather balance view these men complex lives, and explores how each of these men view the gay community in very diverse ways. On the Downlow is an evolving project and it seems right, since sexuality leaps out as a topic we in the African-American community need spend some quality time confronting.

Blackout--(USA; Director/writer: Jerry Lamothe) Lamothe's (pictured) assemble cast includes: Jeffrey Wright, Zoe Saldana, Melvin Van Peebles, Latanya Richardson, Anthony Chisholm, Saul Rubinek, Jamie Hector, and Sean Blakemore tells the untold true tale of what transpired in Brooklyn's East Flatbush neighborhood during the summer blackout of 2003. While most of us were lead to believe that all New Yorkers were watching their brotha's back on that fateful night after 9-11 this film exposes another reality. Peace seemed to have avoided East Flatbush.

The cast does a rather realistic job of recreating the tension, fear, anger and cowardice of the moment. Wright plays "Nelson," the owner of the local barbershop brilliantly. James (Blakemore), still stressed out from the 9-11 occurrence is locked away in his apartment while his girlfriend Claudine (Saldana), is lost about what to do to give him some sense of calm. The black building super, George (Peebles), and the building's white owner (Rubinek), adds racial dynamics. And then there's C.J. (Michael B. Jordan), sense of profound idealism, which is some cases like this one, makes you wish it were reality.

Descent–(USA: Director: Talia Lugacy) Cast: Rosario Dawson, Chad Faust, Marcus Patrick, Traci Thoms, Vanessa Ferlito, and Wilson Jermaine Heredia. What does a sista do when she gets rape? Well she could get all depressed and live in the hazed world of drugs and alcohol, or she could get mad and get even, she could also become scary. Maya (Dawson) manages quite successfully to do all this and maybe more in this 110-minute revenge fantasy. Funny thing, you're could for a second have an inkling of sympathy for her attacker Jared (Faust), but only because Rosario is that good! The cinematography helps makes this wonderfully disturbing piece of art palatable.

The Air I Breathe–(USA; Director: Jieho Lee) Cast: Forest Whitaker, Brendan Fraser, Sarah Michelle Geller, Andy Garcia, Kevin Bacon, Julie Delpy, and Emile Hirsch. The Air I Breathe is based on an ancient Chinese proverb representing four emotional components of life: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love. Lee uses A-list actors, banker (Whitaker), a gangster (Fraser), a pop star (Gellar) a crime boss (Garcia), and a doctor (Bacon) to tell how these four emotions overlap. None of the actors disappoints and the plot is interesting enough. But in the end there is truly nothing profound here.

Doubletime–Documentary (USA; Director: Stephanie Johnes) Remember when sports were fun? Recall the days when most people engaged in the ritual for pleasure? Doubletime takes you back to that concept of sports. The film explores the sport of Double Dutch jumping roping and how it has evolved from its simple beginnings to its now world-class status on the stage of the Apollo in Harlem USA. Yes, it's a competitive sport, but it's one where the participants really give the absolute impression that they love it. It's not about money, drugs or becoming a celebrity. It's all about simple competitive fun. And if you see this film you're bound to have fun and leave with a smile.

DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation, a live, multimedia remix of D. W. Griffith's controversial Civil War epic Birth of a Nation. Incorporating digitally-produced music, film samples, and new footage projected on three screens, the performance mixes new footage with scenes and still images from Griffith's still-controversial 1915 film. DJ Spooky's Rebirth Of a Nation was probably the most profound event at Tribeca. Consider an African American, artist DJ, re-intercepting arguably one of the most racist films in American culture to massive crowds at the spacious World Financial Center's Winter Garden on not one but two nights.

DJ Spooky's performance seemed so appropriate on multiple layers. From the location--World Financial Center--that's deeply symbolic of capitalism, having a progressive quasi "Hip-Hop" artist who has forgone the fruits of going mainstream to stay true to a dream deliver his message. To an industry- the film world, that has been part of the misinformation machinery that has reinforced bias- embracing Spooky's vision in a big way. To observing the crowd engaged in the performance, made it a little easier to believe that some minor progress has been made in racial understanding. And finally seeing a brotha reclaim Black history in the process was absolute genius! --dan k williams


Radio and TV personality Ryan Cameron, his wife, Kysha enjoyin' being among the VIPS at the Sugarloaf Country Club home of Atlanta Braves player Andrew Jones. T-Boz and Chilli, Keshia Knight Pullman, philanthropists John and Oneta Bobbitt, bizman Joshua Butler, lawman Charles Mathis, music producer Deon Herring, radio personality Ramona Debreaux and Dr. Nina Uzzle-Harris were also spotted. Special thanks to Rodney Harris, publicist for Jadden Ladder for a great event.

Atlanta's A-list was in the house to celebrate the continued success of the Ludacris Foundation. Founded by raper/actor Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, the foundation supports a number of worthy community causes nationwide. Cathy Hughes, Bishop Eddie Long and Russell Simmons were honored this year for their community works. Also supporttin' the cause were Star Jones and Al Reynolds, powerhouse publicist Sheri Riley, music executive Alonzo Robinson, attorney Darryl Miller, celebrity stylist Patrick Cooper with Tomika Foster, Dr. Rani Whitfield, DC executive Clyde Penn, William Settle from Delta, and Cultural Arts administrator David Manuel. Special thanks to Kim Hutchens, executive director of the Ludacris Foundation for a wonderful evening.