Cronyism and corruption stifle the cable TV industry in this hard-hitting memoir.
In the late ’70s, when the city of Los Angeles put up for bid the franchise to build a cable TV system for South-Central LA, the author and his brother partnered with an experienced cable company, lined up financing and assembled what they thought would be a winning proposal. Unfortunately, a good business plan turned out to be next to worthless in the tar pit of LA municipal politics. After a series of bullying meetings spiked with bribe offers, an aide to a powerful city councilman and an influence peddler connected to the mayor’s office demanded that they and their associates be given majority control of the prospective franchise. The Galloways, two local African-American businessmen, refused—and found themselves subject to an arbitrary, unfair evaluation process by city agencies that effectively pulled the brothers out of the running. (The franchise was finally awarded to a real estate company that had also, the author contends, tried to muscle in on the Galloways’ project.) Galloway follows the cable-franchise battle as it evolves into a lawsuit that revolved around significant issues of free speech rights and antitrust law, eventually leading to a landmark Supreme Court decision. Part true-life noir replete with threatening power brokers and sleazy backroom deal-making, part populist courtroom drama with pointed allegations of judicial bias, Galloway’s memoir is an absorbing insider’s take on the sort of cable TV franchise controversy that has erupted in many cities. His analysis of knotty business and bureaucratic and legal wrangling is both detailed and lucid, and he ties it to a larger critique of black leaders—including ugly portraits of former LA mayor Tom Bradley, celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochrane and congresswoman Maxine Waters—whom he feels have betrayed their inner-city constituents. Galloway’s account is palpably bitter and one-sided, but it shines a powerful light on high-level malfeasance.
A stinging indictment of urban politics-as-usual.