Guest writer and author T.H. Johnson
A few months ago the beautiful and talented news commentator, Tamron Hall, made a departing announcement that she was leaving her long-term home at NBC, offering her usual effervescent smile but with no justification as to why she was leaving or where she was going. However, to the chagrin of her many followers, the underlying reason appeared to be the unspoken reality of the 600 LB gorilla in the room, NBC’s hiring of the former FOX NEWS commentator and popular blond bombshell, Megyn Kelly. Kelly had made recent on-going headlines mixing it up with “The Donald” based upon some very crude utterances that he, Trump, had made in reference to Megyn while doing her job as a political interrogator of the candidates during the Republican primary campaign for President of the United States.
Megyn Kelly is scheduled to take over the morning spot that Tamron at the time held on the extended Today show along with Al Roker. Hall, Roker and one other had built up a following in that time slot immediately following the regular 2 hour morning Today Show with Matt Lauer and company, maybe I should say, and Savannah Gutherie. However, as it relates to the move made by Tamron, in my opinion, she failed to re-examine her viable options properly prior to making her move in what appears to have been an ego saver. As a black star on one of the few mainline broadcast networks, Tamron had some realities that she faced that, in my opinion, were not well analyzed within the calculation of what should have been her subsequent move. The networks have had many years of unforgiven errors many of which they have been able to overcome over time, but they always bear the annoying sense of paranoia of how their competitors are going to get ahead of them. The last time NBC experienced what I consider a major decline, and who knows it may occur again with this fly-by-night Kelly move which could become a debacle, some old guard local channels switched allegiance from NBC to the ABC network back in the 1980s. It had been my traveling experience back then that most of the cities I traveled you could generally find the NBC network on Channel 5, the VHF broadcast channel in the local market. One of the longest, if not the first network affiliate of the NBC Network was the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Hubbard Broadcasting which signed on in the pre-television days during the beginning of commercial broadcast radio with NBC back in 1925 they would be the NBC affiliate locally on Channel 5 in the Twin Cities when TV came into operation from the 1950s through the mid-1980s. All of it was geared to a white audience back then with the focus on reaching what the advertising agencies called “average or middle America”. These were made up of predominantly the largest 50,000 watt (clear channel) radio frequencies across the U.S. Regional broadcast outlets that served the more specifically defined local markets with a maximum 5,000 watts would not come along until the 1940s, so you would see the entry of Country and Western stations and a limited few black oriented stations appear in certain markets by 1945. When TV became popular after 1950 they, for the most part and for most of the rest of the 20th century, duplicated the same formula since many were owned by the Network affiliates of the 1920s. However, due to the exciting programming and ratings attributed to ABC Network’s Wide World of Sports in the 1980s when NBC’s contract ended with Hubbard’s channel 5 in Minneapolis-St. Paul, they negotiated a new contract to carry the ABC Network and NBC moved to Channel 11, and this may have gone on in other markets around the country. This is the paranoid world in which Tamron Hall and any other in that business has to recognize and take into consideration in order to continue to exist in this highly competitive business. The market forces that influence the nervous network executives in New York City may have more to do with what impacts what is perceived to be “middle America” in Bumfuk, Kansas than anywhere else in the U.S. So, the question became where was Tamron to go if she jumped off the ship at NBC?
There is no question that Tamron was a shining star that took great care to present her well manicured, tanned, and coiffed beauty, but where was it to be displayed once she was gone? If you notice all of the networks have one or two gorgeous women of color, particularly African American women. ABC has the tall lean Robin Roberts, and CBS has Gayle King both of them quality thoroughbreds in this competitive network race. It is not by accident that Gayle is positioned to present those long healthy legs when the CBS Morning Show ends each day. It certainly makes me come alive each morning and I’m certain adds to CBS’s high morning ratings among males.
The name of the game, whether we want to admit it or not is sex, and both Gayle and Nora Odonell place a choke hold on that area of Television viewing that appeals to an older demographic. Both of those ladies are, as the saying goes, “fiiiiiine!” I don’t see CBS changing that winning formula soon because it is also inspiring to others in the same age category to say if they can look that good, I can get myself together and look that good too. That translates into higher advertising revenue with a dependable audience, and because of that reality I think both ABC and CBS are out for Tamron Hall.
So where does Tamron Hall go, to the other giant broadcast network, FOX? Well, maybe but they are still in flux as far as their transition from trying to dig out of the hole they found themselves falling into with all of the sexual misconduct allegations of their heavy hitters who set the tone of FOX’s popularity. That will become Megyn Kelly’s dilemma transitioning from a right wing fanatic at FOX to presenting a more neutral mainstream ambiance. I’m not saying she can’t do it, but the transition to believable audience acceptance is the gamble that NBC is taking, and if I were Tamron’s agent at the time would have been the reason why I would have advised her to take the money NBC was offering and let’s see how the Kelly transition plays out. Tamron, although a lady, has this uncanny ability like a thoroughbred stallion to come from behind take the lead and hold it to the finish line. She’s done it before from being the longshot at MSNBC to making it to the main line at NBC and that ability, a combination of beauty and intelligence has always made her a perennial threat, she gets to the rail, digs in, and is gone. I’m certain that there is an envy in her competitive circle that does not miss her absence because as hard as some of the others tried they simply could not compete with all of her assets and had to be propped up to make it to the finish line. However, you cannot allow your ego to come into play with the networks because what is often presented in front of the camera is half fantasy that makes them the money, and if you allow your dignity to get caught between its paranoia and arrogant pincers you will be squeezed to the point of being flattened, assuming you have nowhere else to go. Megyn had somewhere else to go because the networks still operate from the old model that dates back to 1925 and unfortunately for many reasons it is a racial model built around what is acceptable to whites. However, with all of her talents I just don’t see Tam going to FOX soon and I worry that she will be pancaked in the paranoia of the network race.
There is the long shot potential of OWN.
If Oprah and her advisers had some foresight to move the OWN Network into something beyond the Dr. Phil shows, not saying he’s not good but simply stale programming that’s been around too long and other old fair like that, they could turn OWN into a dynamic leading, audience driving competitor, in the marketplace, and still find a place for Dr. Phil. Tamron Hall could be a potent force in that transition in the OWN arsenal if they were so inclined to invest the money to compete. Just think of that, a fresh new look for the 21st century with young attractive men and women of color, African-American, African, Caribbean, Asians, Caucasians, Latinos, etc. as sharp, good looking exotic reporters of serious news and the titillating gossip associated with all of the tabloid shows, i.e. Keeping Up with the Kardashians, TMZ, etc. I use the word “Exotic” because this is what the senses of many desire to see and why at first I felt that Al Jazeera when it appeared would be a unique brand of fresh air —-but. Such a move would be like an atomic bomb in the entertainment world and would push Oprah’s OWN right to the front with a knock-out punch that would, in my opinion, down all of the stereotypical networks that simply keep fortifying and presenting the same 60 year old formula despite the reality of the changing population demographics in the national marketplace. However, FOX does present something diametrically unusual and unique in its evening programming and may still continue to be a major contender in the marketplace.
Until that major broadcast commitment to change at FOX is accepted across the board, despite all of the public relations posturings Tamron Hall, I’m afraid, shall remain out of luck in this game of Musical Chairs for the time being. However, as visually gorgeous and professional as she is in her delivery before the cameras Tamron Hall appears on paper to be a potential proposition that is too juicy for network executives to ignore. Someone in a greenlighting role at one of the networks I wager is going to gamble on finding a place for her once again and if they do, it’s off to the network races once again with a top contender who can win.
*T.H. Johnson has been an investigative journalist regarding hidden evidence in the infamous OJ Simpson trial. He’s authored PURSUIT OF EXHIBIT 35 in the OJ Simpson Case, THE PEOPLE V. OJ SIMPSON, CONSPIRACY OF ASSUMPTIONS and produced the hard hitting documentary showing the coverup in the Simpson case entitled SERPENTS RISING: The OJ Simpson Conspiracy. He’s been associated with radio broadcast production and broadcast advertising for the last 40 years producing award winning commercials for the record industry.