The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Marcellus Alexander, Jr.

Television executive Marcellus Winston Alexander, Jr. was born on October 3, 1951 in Austin, Texas to Juanita Smith and Marcellus Alexander. In 1973, he graduated with his B.S. degree in speech and journalism from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

In 1982, Alexander was hired as a general sales manager at the then-American Broadcasting Company owned and operated station WRIF-FM in Detroit, Michigan. In 1984, he was promoted to vice president and general manager of WRIF-FM. Then, in 1986, Alexander helped organize an investor group that purchased WRIF from Cap Cities/ABC, while also serving as chief operating officer of Silver Star Communications in Detroit. From 1987 to 1989, he worked as station manager and acting general manager of KYW-TV in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1989 until 1999, Alexander served as vice president and general manager of Baltimore, Maryland’s WJZ-TV, where he expanded the local news, brought back the Baltimore Orioles broadcasts, and through a network affiliation change, sustained WJZ’s market dominance. In 1999, Alexander returned to KYW as vice president and general manager, where he served until 2002. While at KYW, he improved the station's news product, revitalized sales and strengthened its ties to the community.

In 2002, Alexander was named executive vice president of television for the National Association of Broadcasters. His responsibilities included growing TV's membership, as well as overseeing the Futures Summit, Small Market Exchange, account executive webcasts and key events and sessions at the NAB Show. In 2004, Alexander was named president of the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation (NABEF).

Alexander has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Baltimore Urban League, the Advertising Association of Baltimore, the Kennedy Institute, and the Advertising and Professional Club. He has been a member of the National Association of Black Journalists since 1987. Alexander has also received many awards and honors for his work. In 1991, he received both the Distinguished Black Marylander Award from Towson State University, and the Humanitarian Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Association. In 1994, his alma mater presented him with its Distinguished Alumni Award; and, in 1995, he received an honorary doctorate degree from Western Maryland College.

Marcellus Alexander was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 2, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.338

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/2/2013

Last Name

Alexander

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Winston

Schools

Texas State University

Del Valle High School

Lamar Elementary School

Pilot Knob School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Marcellus

Birth City, State, Country

Austin

HM ID

ALE03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Near Water

Favorite Quote

Eat An Elephant One Bite At A Time.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

10/3/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue

Short Description

Television executive Marcellus Alexander, Jr. (1951 - ) has worked in television and radio for over thirty years. He serves as executive vice president of television for the National Association of Broadcasters and as president of the NAB Education Foundation.

Employment

National Association of Broadcasters

KYW TV/CBS

WJZ TV

WRIF Radio

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:3969,88:7695,160:8505,173:9639,195:10449,204:10854,210:11907,224:16605,291:17658,307:18144,314:19116,329:26826,382:27861,392:28620,406:30345,445:31587,465:32001,472:33519,490:34002,499:34554,508:37752,524:42876,614:43464,623:45144,668:45984,679:50910,709:51845,726:52270,732:53205,751:66962,895:67438,903:67846,910:68390,923:69682,965:70634,983:75515,1020:76194,1030:77067,1043:77746,1052:81141,1102:81820,1111:82499,1119:84245,1148:88416,1203:88901,1213:89289,1218:90356,1237:90841,1243:91714,1254:97190,1263:98410,1269:99238,1278:101336,1294:102506,1314:103130,1324:106718,1391:107966,1413:108824,1427:109136,1432:109604,1440:113243,1451:114944,1479:116969,1513:119318,1566:120533,1582:121829,1610:122639,1622:123611,1640:124016,1646:124826,1658:125231,1664:125798,1672:131210,1700:131990,1712:135812,1781:136436,1791:138464,1828:139946,1847:148180,1904:150250,1933:151150,1946:152320,1962:153130,1972:155690,1979$60,0:810,13:1185,19:2310,43:4035,74:4785,85:5985,94:6885,110:7935,125:8835,133:11750,144:13154,165:13466,170:13934,177:14714,188:15572,201:17756,231:18770,248:20096,274:24573,312:25374,322:26175,332:26798,340:27332,347:27866,355:29023,370:30002,383:30892,398:33651,434:37388,448:37920,456:38452,464:38984,479:40884,518:41796,531:43544,552:44228,563:44532,568:45216,582:51564,666:51872,671:53566,701:54028,709:55029,723:55414,729:57570,764:58032,772:71894,882:72264,888:73448,906:80175,1023:80550,1029:81825,1048:82575,1057:83175,1067:83850,1078:84525,1090:84900,1096:85200,1101:89346,1124:91317,1164:91609,1169:92485,1179:92777,1184:94456,1206:95405,1222:97595,1254:100650,1262:101330,1269:101806,1278:102690,1296:103234,1305:103574,1311:103846,1322:104254,1330:104526,1335:105274,1361:108946,1440:109218,1449:109490,1454:114586,1488:120416,1561:124718,1587:125083,1593:126178,1606:126543,1612:127711,1633:128952,1653:129609,1663:130120,1684:135432,1753:136248,1768:137336,1821:138220,1837:138764,1846:145915,2006:149089,2066:149986,2087:151228,2109:151711,2117:158230,2186:158846,2195:159286,2201:161222,2227:174134,2380:174937,2394:175667,2405:176324,2415:178003,2444:178806,2454:179682,2467:179974,2472:186320,2509:188350,2518:188594,2523:189265,2538:189814,2548:191522,2577:191766,2582:192986,2619:193352,2631:194145,2646:198818,2690:199910,2704:200911,2717:201912,2729:205097,2771:207008,2809:214560,2850:218080,2907:218400,2912:220720,2954:221360,2965:222960,2992:223520,3001:224560,3016:225440,3032:226080,3042:226800,3052:232125,3085:232450,3091:232840,3098:233555,3112:234075,3122:238910,3157
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marcellus Alexander's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marcellus Alexander lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marcellus Alexander describes his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marcellus Alexander describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his mother's family's migration to Austin, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marcellus Alexander describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marcellus Alexander describes his father's childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Marcellus Alexander describes his father's childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Marcellus Alexander considers which parent's disposition he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Marcellus Alexander lists his siblings and their birth order

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Marcellus Alexander describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Alexander Marcellus describes his responsibilities on the family farm in Creedmoor, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Marcellus Alexander describes his elementary school experience in Creedmoor, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marcellus Alexander describes the origin of Pilot Knob School's name

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marcellus Alexander describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood in Del Valle, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marcellus Alexander describes his desire to be a U.S. Navy pilot as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his strengths in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his extracurricular activities as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marcellus Alexander talks about deciding to go to college

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marcellus Alexander describes his childhood talents

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marcellus Alexander describes television and radio in the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marcellus Alexander talks about integrating Del Valle Junior High School in 1963

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Marcellus Alexander recalls two influential grade school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Marcellus Alexander remembers an incidence of racial violence in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his senior year at Del Valle High School in Del Valle, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Marcellus Alexander describes his high school graduation night

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Marcellus Alexander describes his focus on academics at Del Valle High School in Del Valle, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the history of Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marcellus Alexander describes forming Umoja, a student organization at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marcellus Alexander talks about forming a black student choir at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marcellus Alexander describes President Lyndon Johnson's legacy at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marcellus Alexander describes establishing a chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marcellus Alexander talks about student body diversity at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marcellus Alexander describes his leadership roles at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marcellus Alexander remembers his influential history professor Dr. Poole

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Marcellus Alexander describes his decision to major in communications

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his academic focus in college, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Marcellus Alexander talks about writing for the school paper and yearbook

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his academic focus in college, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Marcellus Alexander considers what he would have done differently in college

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Marcellus Alexander describes working with the American Heart Association

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the beginning of his broadcast radio career, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 16 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the beginning of his broadcast radio career, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 17 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his work ethic at WRIF radio in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marcellus Alexander explains his sales technique at WRIF radio in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marcellus Alexander recalls a memorable lunch with radio sales manager Ernie Fears

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marcellus Alexander describes working as the general sales manager at WRIF radio

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his promotion to vice president of WRIF radio

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marcellus Alexander talks about firing employees

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marcellus Alexander describes changes in the radio business between 1980 and 1985

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Marcellus Alexander describes the culture of Detroit, Michigan in the 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Marcellus Alexander describes becoming CEO and part owner of WRIF radio

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Marcellus Alexander describes his experience working for Group W Television

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Marcellus Alexander talks about 'The Mike Douglas Show'

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Marcellus Alexander explains the Group W Television market

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Marcellus Alexander explains differences between radio and television station managing

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the introduction of cable in the 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the rivalry between local television and cable

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Marcellus Alexander talks about major league baseball broadcasting on WJZ-TV

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Marcellus Alexander describes assembling WJZ-TV's news helicopter, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Marcellus Alexander describes assembling WJZ-TV's news helicopter, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Marcellus Alexander describes his management style

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Marcellus Alexander talks about adopting Northern High School in Baltimore, Maryland, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Marcellus Alexander describes adopting Northern High School in Baltimore, Maryland, pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Marcellus Alexander describes WJZ-TV's network transition from ABC to CBS, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the impact of the FOX television network

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Marcellus Alexander describes WJZ-TV's network transition from ABC to CBS, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his colleagues at the WJZ news station

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Marcellus Alexander explains how television and radio ratings are measured

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Marcellus Alexander explains the significance of television ratings

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the longevity of local radio programming

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Marcellus Alexander talks about returning to KYW-TV in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Marcellus describes joining the National Association of Broadcasters as Vice President of Television, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Marcellus Alexander joining the National Association of Broadcasters as Vice President of Television, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Marcellus Alexander talks about existing issues in broadcast radio and television

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the National Association of Broadcasters' membership and employees

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Marcellus Alexander describes his responsibilities as the vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation for underrepresented people in media

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Marcellus Alexander explains the transition from analog television to digital television in 2009, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Marcellus Alexander explains the transition from analog television to digital television in 2009, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the potential in digital television programming for minorities

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the retransmission consent process in television

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his ongoing enthusiasm for the television industry

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Marcellus Alexander talks about the internet's impact on television

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Marcellus Alexander reflects upon his professional legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Marcellus Alexander considers what he would have done differently in his career

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Marcellus Alexander shares his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Marcellus Alexander talks about his children

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Marcellus Alexander talks about building his parents' home with his siblings

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Marcellus Alexander thanks his family for helping to map out his family ancestry

Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Marcellus Alexander describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Marcellus Alexander narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

15$6

DATitle
Marcellus Alexander talks about the beginning of his broadcast radio career, pt. 1
Marcellus Alexander talks about existing issues in broadcast radio and television
Transcript
Now, at this point in time, were you thinking about sales at all?$$I was thinking about sales, but I've always felt and one of my philosophies has been, do the best you can with the job that you have and other opportunities will open up. So with this job that I just described, I go now to Michigan to the annual meeting of the Michigan Heart Association. Its chapter is probably about 200 people in the audience, and I'm in front of the room explaining what our public relations plan is from the National Center. In the audience, unbeknownst to me at the time, was the HR [human resources] manager for the ABC group of stations in Detroit [Michigan]. There was a television station that was owned by ABC Radio, AM and FM radio stations that were owned by ABC.$$Okay, now, is this WXYZ?$$WXYZ Television, WXYZ AM and WRIF Radio. After my presentation, the HR manager came up to me, and she said, I really enjoyed your presentation. And I have a couple of job opportunities I'd like to talk with you about. And so just some context, I'm based in Dallas [Texas], home of the then American's team, close to home in terms of Austin [Texas], and Detroit was cold and snowy and cold and more cold. In fact, the joke there was there're three seasons in Detroit, June, July and Winter. And it wasn't far off from that as I found out. But I had, with all those thoughts going on, I had the primary tape that was playing in my head from my mother who would say to me on numerous occasions, "Before you pass on an opportunity, at least check it out." So, long story short, the jobs that she had, there was one that was of appeal. It was a sales position, a sales trainee position, and I was, I felt like if you train me, I can do pretty much anything. If you invest the time and energy to train me, I can do anything. And so decided to move to Detroit, and take the sales trainee job at a WRIF Radio, which is a rock station, and that was the beginning of my broadcast career.$What are the major issues today?$$There're several. The keys ones on the television side are maintaining the retransmission consent structure, which is a structure that allows television stations and networks to be compensated by cable and pay TV services for carrying the programs that they do. And that's an extremely important revenue stream when it comes to local stations and networks being able to provide what viewers want. Cable has two revenue streams already. They have advertising revenue and they have subscription revenue. So they're able to in some cases, outbid broadcasters for, let's say the BCS [Bowl Championship Series] Championship Bowl or some sports programming. So to be able to provide that, those types of high-profile programs, we have to protect that retransmission consent structure.$$The retransmission consent structure would make it harder for cable operators to take that kind of programming away from--(unclear) (simultaneous)--$$Well, no, they have to--the way that it works is, at these negotiations, both parties, cable and broadcast, come to the table with something to lose. If you're on the broadcast side, you wanna make sure that your station, your network continues to be carried by the pay-TV providers because that's what you need to make your business model work. You have to have viewers. And you want as many of them as you can get. If you're on the cable side of it, you certainly need the good programming that broadcasters are investing in producing. And whether that's the NFL, the Super Bowl, the Oscars or local news, the cable system wants those channels, wants that programming for its customers because they know if they don't have it, then their customers are gonna go to another pay service to get that. They, they just have--(simultaneous)--$$Yeah, also shows like American Idol, I guess or Homicide and stuff--(simultaneous)--$$Exactly.$$--like that--(simultaneous)--$$Exactly.$$--that's produced by the networks.$$Correct. So both parties come to the table with something to lose, and in 99 percent of the time, there is an agreement reached without any viewer disruption. Of late, there's been an effort for, from the cable side, the pay-TV side, to create problems that then they want to go to congress and help to get a fix. And we've--obviously, are gonna fight that. So, but that's one of the key issues on the television side. We also, on the television side have, are looking at a next generation broadcast platform, a new standard from which we would broadcast television and all that goes into that. There's a lot of conversation around that that has to be discussed and sorted through. On the radio side, the big issue is the Performance Rights Act. This is, formerly, it's also called the Performance Tax. This is, radio stations--or actually, it's record labels wanting to have radio stations pay them when they play records. And that's not a business model that makes sense for radio. It's one that the marketplace is working at in a number of different ways, but those would be the top three issues right now for radio and television in our--in our business.