Local Radio Station WHPB 98.5 The Wire is the Voice of the People
WHPB 98.5 The Wire, a Low Power FM (LPFM) radio station, hit the airwaves in the Orlando neighborhood known as Pine Hills on October 28, 2016.
Co-founded by music and broadcast industry veteran Paul Porter, who spent years working for some of the biggest radio stations in some of the biggest markets, The Wire is an alternative to mainstream commercial radio and serves the needs of the residents of Pine Hills and its surrounding areas.
“After working for NBC Radio, Radio One, Clear Channel, iHeart, Cox, I wanted to do it my way,” Porter says. “I wanted to do old time radio where you serve the community that you’re licensed to. That’s been lost over the years with consolidation and syndication and corporations.”
Porter recently published a book entitled Blackout: My 40 Years In The Music Business which he said gives “an inside look at payola, how the culture’s changed in music, and [tells] the stories that nobody wants to tell.”
Porter says it is his no-holds-barred account of how the music industry succumbed to corporate greed over what gets played on the radio. It has been endorsed by legendary rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy fame as well as MSNBC talk show host Joy-Ann Reid, on whose show “AM Joy” Porter recently appeared to promote the book.
Another issue Porter has been outspoken about in recent years is the lyrical content in many popular songs, particularly in Hip Hop.
“I’ve been seeing the marriage between records and radio and seeing content in terms of music declining rapidly,” he said. “Hip hop for a long time was fun. It was political and there were a lot of messages. We’ve replaced that with nursery school rhymes and songs about weed and instead we call it broccoli.”
Porter has also been on the advisory board of the Parents Television Council for the past nine years and participated in a 2008 study entitled “The Rap On Rap” which analyzed the content of shows on BET and MTV. Porter, who programmed BET content for sixty-six million homes during his ten-year tenure with them, says the study found that “every nine seconds there is a reference to money, sex, or drugs in Hip Hop videos.”
“Radio stations don’t even test different songs and that’s why with The Wire, I can play songs that are a lot more balanced and have positive messages, [which] corporate radio doesn’t allow,” he said.
Stacey Michelle Ali, Activities Coordinator at 1Community1Orlando, mother of three, and lifelong Orlando resident who lives just outside Pine Hills said the variety of songs is why she listens.
“It’s very refreshing to have a radio station that doesn’t just play the Top Ten Hits,” she said.
“We average 55 minutes and that’s incredible TSL (“Time Spent Listening”), where any normal radio station gets 20-25 minutes, so I know it’s working,” Porter said. “I know that the station is growing.”
The station also features talk radio shows like Take No Prisoners, which airs every Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. and focuses on Hip Hop culture, race, and social justice and has local and national leaders as guests.
This past April, Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala gave The Wire an exclusive interview discussing the controversy over Governor Rick Scott removing her from cases involving inmates on death row as a result of her refusal to seek the death penalty.
Porter has appeared on talk shows that run the political gamut, including conservative programs like The Sean Hannity Show and the O’Reilly Factor.
“We try to make it so folks get a fair shake,” he said. “We take in all sides.”
The Wire partners with organizations like the Central Florida Urban League and the non-profit Let Your Voice Be Heard, Inc. They also currently have a mentorship program with seven students from Evans High School who are learning broadcasting.
Pine Hills’ reputation is that of a neighborhood ridden with crime and violence and has been referred to as “Crime Hills” or “Pine Kills.” However, it is in reality a strong community who support and care for each other.
“98.5 is that station that gives the positive community that voice to speak when the national media and the local media doesn’t,” Ali says. “They give a voice to the voiceless. I will forever support whatever they do because they are for the people and they are the voice of the people.”