A black-owned broadcasting company has slapped Nexstar Media Group with a lawsuit alleging the media giant tried to torpedo its efforts to operate independently.
Marshall Broadcasting Group (MBG), owned by media executive Pluria Marshall Jr. [pictured above], filed the suit Wednesday in New York Supreme Court, MBG said in a press release. Marshall is also publisher of the Los Angeles Wave Newspaper Group.
Nexstar sold three TV stations — KPEJ-TV in Odessa, TX; KMSS-TV in Shreveport, LA.; and KLJB-TV in Rock Island, IL — to MBG in 2014, after being forced to divest some of its assets because of Federal Communications Commission ownership rules, as it looked to win government approval for other acquisitions.
Nexstar’s website says it operates the stations. The suit accuses the company of a “calculated scheme” to sabotage operations at the three small market stations to diminish their value and buy them back at rock-bottom prices.
MBG claims Nexstar chose the black-owned company as the buyer because it “knew the FCC would look favorably on a sale to a minority-owned entity,” as the FCC sought to increase diversity among commercial television ownership ranks.
“It has become clear that our only value to Nexstar was diversity optics at the FCC,” said Marshall, MBG’s president and CEO, in a statement. “Ever since the deal was signed, Nexstar has gone to great lengths to constantly interfere, undercut our authority and sabotage our business.”
As part of obtaining FCC approval, Nexstar agreed to guarantee MBG’s credit for five years. But MBG alleges Nexstar tried to withdraw its financial support early, knowing “MBG was in no position to refinance its debt without Nexstar’s guarantee.”
The suit alleges Nexstar — the second largest operator of television stations in the country — is secretly scheming to get the stations back in hopes that it will face fewer regulatory rules under the Trump administration than it did in 2014.
MBG also accuses Nexstar of “consistently interfering in MBG’s sales and operations,” as well as “overcharging for its stations at the outset, presenting MBG with a price tag of $58.6 million for the same stations and assets that it intended to sell to another potential buyer for only $42.3 million.”
Nexstar has denied the company’s claims.
“The allegations made by MBG in its lawsuit against the company are spurious and without merit. The company intends to vigorously defend itself regarding this matter in a court of law,” Nexstar said in a statement to Urban Hollywood 411.
The media giant made headlines in January when former TV anchor Brittany Noble-Jones said she was wrongfully terminated from WJTV-TV, its station in Jackson, Mississippi, after filing an EEOC complaint that alleged she was singled out for among other things, wearing her “natural hair” on-camera.
Nexstar denied her allegations and said in a previous statement that it has a “strict zero-tolerance policy which prohibits harassment, discrimination or retaliation of any type.” The company added that Noble-Jones was fired for “excessive absenteeism.”