Is Black Radio in Danger of Being Silenced?

Published by Writspirit in the blog Writspirit. Views: 148

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Is Black Radio in threat of disappearing? Recently, New York's KISS-FM was merged into WBLS. "Open Line" a popular KISS-FM talk show was kept, while the popular Michael Baison Show, was not. Now there is fear that WBLS itself is about to be bought by YMF Partners. This has prompted former WWRL "Night Talk" Show host, Bob Law, to file a petition along with Councilman Charles Barron, Michael North and Betty Dopson of the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People, asking the FCC to delay the sale of WBLS to YMF since YMF cannot purchase the station without FCC approval.

A community activist, Bob Law is the founder of the National Respect Yourself Youth Organization, the owner of "Namaskar," his health store and Bob Law's Seafood Café.

In 1949, WLIB was purchased by the New Broadcasting Company headed by Morris and Harry Novik. By the 1950s, disc jockeys such as the late Hal Jackson were part of the on-air staff. WLIB was one of several commercial jazz stations in New York where Billy Taylor, Del Shields and Ed Williams established a radio music format that is used to this day.

In the 1970s, there was a political outcry by African Americans for a black-owned radio station. Due to political pressure and after years in radio, the Novik brothers were ready to retire. Therefore, they looked for someone to buy the station that would meet with the Black Community’s approval. Therefore, when Percy Sutton backed by several black investors came along, they sold the station to Sutton who formed Inner City Broadcasting. Eventually Inner City fell into bankruptcy and now their stations are under threat of being bought by YMF Partners. It is the contention of Messrs. Law, North, Barron and Ms. Dopson, that it was predatory lending and the Arbitron ratings system that helped to reduce advertising and brought about the bankruptcy. They are also concerned that once YMF gets the approval from FCC to purchase WBLS, YMF will simply turn around and sell it to a mega corporation that will eliminate the black format.

"I am not sure it's coincidental that there is an effort to silence Black voices and dismantle Black radio," remarked Law. "This agenda is set to go full steam in this election year. The Million Man March was supported by black radio since there was no popular political support, Black or white, who supported the march. Black Radio told the people to go when the politicos said not to go. Did the people go? So then who had more clout and influence?" “As I see it, this may have brought attention to the powers-to-be how influential Black radio is, thus the desire to silence it" stated the community leader.

"So what happened next is Black radio was made unprofitable. This happened via a consistent and deliberate undercounting of black listeners in NYC and perhaps across the nation. Arbitron (the ratings company) has been accused of giving out information to the ad industry that undercounted black listeners so the radio station could’t get paid for the audiences they actually deliver. When Andrew Cuomo was attorney general, he brought a lawsuit against Arbitron here in NY. The language in Cuomo's indictment said "Arbitron was willingly and knowingly giving out incorrect information to their clients, both ad agencies and radio stations, and they were doing so to the detriment of black radio stations." Cuomo's findings said "...that Arbitron's numbers is so far off and black radio is being so underpaid, that it is actually causing the financial demise of black radio." In February 2012, the Attorney General in L.A., also brought a suit against Arbitron stating nearly the same thing Cuomo said in his litigation. Arbitron settled out of Court, although I have yet to see they corrected what they were doing," remarked Mr. Law.

"Bill Clinton authored and pushed through a telecommunications bill which took the limit off of how many stations someone can own. This removed all the protections the general public had in how the airwaves were used. Clinton's legislation said that anyone can have as many stations as they want as long as they can afford to buy them. Naturally only the huge corporations could afford to buy multiple stations. But the little stand alone stations couldn’t afford to compete with these huge corporations. I believe Bill Clinton knew that full well when he authored his bill. I think it was a conscious and deliberate decision on Bill Clinton's part when he orchestrated this bill. Since the bigger corporations could approach the advertiser and say advertise with us because we can run your product in our "multiple" stations while the smaller station cannot. So the advertisers went with the huge stations. Therefore, in order to stay in business, the minority stations were forced to buy other stations. That is where the predatory lenders came in. The predator lenders gave loans that said these stations had to allow lenders veto power in their stations, power to vote on policy, and involvement in the stations' operation. The Black owners found out their loan became a loan to own scheme. The lenders made it virtually impossible for the stations to pay the money back and thus forced the stations into foreclosure and into bankruptcy," continued the community activist.

"Advertisers looked at the Arbitron figures and told Black stations that the black consumer market held no value, while making huge profits from the Black community. But since black consumers freely gave their money to these corporations, the corporations saw no need to give back to the black community. "The Black Community as consumers must come together. We simply need to go to our pantry and ask ourselves what products we can do without. Just stop buying and see how long it takes before these mega-corporations start missing your dollars?" concluded Mr. Law.

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