Tuning Out Black Radio by William Reed

This is a really important read.  The consolidation within radio has disproportionately impacted Black radio.  Given the shrinking outlets for soul, rhythm&blues and funky music in its various forms, we need to do what we can to support the stations we have left.

Reprinted from Atlanta Daily World:

“Historically, Black radio … fulfilled all functions Black people needed … but now it’s time to take a serious look and right the wrong of the mess we call Black radio today,” says Todd Steven Burroughs, a lecturer in the Communication Studies Department at Morgan State University. Burroughs is demanding that the Federal Communications Commission investigate and intervene in the matter, saying “Black communities once again have been given symbolism instead of substance” and, that “back in the day, African-American DJs not only provided the community with the latest news and information, they played records of Black artists that served as the soundtracks of Black empowerment.”

Although constituting 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans own just 2 percent of all commercial broadcast licenses in America. But, Blacks need to coalesce around the idea that economic and political empowerment among us cannot be achieved without access and control over the mass media resources that impact us and the world.

Black radio has consistently been a reliable source of news, information and culture for local communities. North and South, Black radio was urbane, hip and the main source for all of Black culture. Black radio provided a voice to millions with unrivaled flair and theater. Black DJ’s were an important part of the communities that stations were licensed to serve. Isn’t it time we reflected on that unique mixture of news and music that were an integral part of Black communities’ culture?

In Atlanta in the early 1960s, on Black-owned station, WERD, “Jockey Jack” Gibson slipped political messages on air between songs. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had offices beneath WERD’s studios, would sometimes bang a broomstick on the ceiling to let Gibson know to lower a microphone out of the window so King could go on the air with a statement.


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