What does it mean to own something? Beyond definitions or even illustrations, I’m talking about the responsibility and accountability that comes with owning something … and owning something of intrinsic worth.
How does that make a person feel? Imagine the sheer sense of satisfaction, achievement, and stewardship that envelopes you when a valuable asset becomes your property—yours to create and contribute; yours to develop or destroy. While ownership has its benefits, it also has its burdens.
Seven years ago, I seized an opportunity when Sinclair Broadcast Group CEO David Smith offered me the chance to own television stations across this great country. And I can tell you that experience—which I’m still living today through more acquisitions—has transformed my life in dramatic ways.
I first tasted the thrill of communications and public life at an early age. The experience of interning for the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond in my home state of South Carolina gave me the experience to later work for current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and public relations guru Robert J. Brown.
And this young man from the Palmetto State lowlands never looked back in taking steps of faith toward the milestones in my life. I give all credit and glory to my creator and parents James and Thelma Williams. Their grace allowed me to have the exposure and experiences to dream big.
Today, I am the president and CEO of Howard Stirk Holdings, a multimedia conglomerate with interests in media, communications, real estate, and other businesses. In the coming weeks, we will have the unique privilege of owning 10 television stations in cities across the United States, in conjunction with Sinclair Broadcasting. While some may scoff at the number, it is no small feat.
These are great and interesting times to be in the television business. It is a rapidly evolving industry—with more players and more competition than ever before. That means enhanced programming and grander options for American viewers. It also means an upheaval within the industry—a phenomenon many of the old guard despise. To these elite few in the mainstream media, change is not good. Broader ownership erodes their power base, and to make matters worse, minority ownership threatens a cozy, predictable setup that few want disturbed.
America should welcome this change, and major television networks should be ashamed. For how many decades have these networks kept us at arm’s length? Sure, it’s fine to bring in minorities and even put them on camera, but let’s not dare give them opportunities to own these levers of control. These were the implicit messages coming from the power elite. That would be too much.
And yet, thanks to my business partner and trusted friend of 20 years, Smith, and others like him, the power matrix is slowly shifting away from TV barons and toward diversity. Just as in other industries, our society should celebrate this and encourage more of it.
We at Howard Stirk Holdings are proud to be in the forefront of a trend that should be a model not only for the broadcast, media, and communications sector, but for others as well. What about technology, retail, finance, health care, and many other engines of growth in our society? Aren’t there opportunities for partnership and ownership for new and diverse entrants among them? We believe there are.
Ownership is a powerful virtue, one that should flow down like waters of freedom and opportunity in this great republic. Let’s embrace these trends, celebrate the leaders, and leave the criticism aside.