By Paul Porter
Since its inception, American media has tragically failed to represent communities of color.
Historically, one critical form of communication – Black radio – was the antidote to that distortion, consistently standing as a reliable source of news, information and culture throughout local communities nationwide.
Black radio was television without a picture.
Martin Luther King JR once said of Black radio “We certainly would have not have come so far, without your support. In a real sense you have paved the way for social and political change, by creating a powerful cultural bridge between black and white”.
MLK’s speech 1967 Speech to the National Association of Television and Radio
Black radio, for decades gave a voice to millions with a unrivaled flair of personality and theater. Black DJ’s were an important part of the communites that stations were licensed to serve. Frankie Crocker and New York’s legendary WBLS, became one of the models to follow on the FM band. WBLS is now in bankruptcy proceeedings.
The mixture of news and music were a integral part of Black culture. Gone are the days of R&B and the super group bands. The Commodores, Earth, Wind & Fire, Isley’s, LTD, Maze and Sly & The Family Stone were systematically replaced with samples and misogynistic hip hop. In the early nineties, the once family oriented Black radio was divided into two distinct formats. Urban became the younger ended home of rap and Urban AC the oldies based format for adults 25 plus.
Black radio’s dominance and community connection began to slowly unravel in the early 90’s. With the passage of the 1996 Telecomm Act, ownership restrictions were lifted and public service requirements were eliminated. In 1995 there were 274 Black-owned stations,Black local ownership turned into big dollar corporate purchases.
Clear Channel Communications, went from 48 stations in 1995 to over 1100 in 1998. The mission changed from serving local listeners to satisfying stock holders. Local news was abandoned after corporate cut backs deemed for profitability sake, news and Black America are not a match. But the dissecting did not stop there.
Syndication, the norm for conservative AM Talk radio, slowly began on Black radio music formats. Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Ricky Smiley, Russ Parr and Michael Baisden have ushered in Black radio’s syndication era. Black Americans are 75 times more likely to hear the same music and messenger than their white counterparts.
By muting local voices and news, Black radio has effectively put a dager in local perspectives. The issues that Black Radio often addressed are long gone.
Black music has suffered a systematic demise and Black radio is a major compliance. The youth in America, get a steady diet of bitch, hoe and bling.The once undisputed music leader now follows the lead of the powerful recording industry. Commercial hip hop is the format of the lyrically challenged but the youth are too young to notice. Black America is in big trouble and its time for Black Radio to be much more than funny.