It’s hard to understand what Black radio should be when it’s been missing for years.
After the demise of legendary WRKS-FM in New York, Michael Baisden has been on air petitioning listeners for a spot on WBLS-FM, New York’s remaining Black adult format. Baisden, while correct on the silencing of black voices on radio, is dead wrong about black radio’s problem being something new. Black radio has been taking a whipping for almost 15 years.
The 1996 Telecomm Act, was the beginning of the end of black owned and formatted radio stations. The Bill Clinton backed Telecomm Act, lifted ownership limits and ushered in a new era of corporate ownership. Local programming, news, music and voices have been systematically homogenized. Black radio’s microphone has been muted.
The Telecomm Act, disproportionally affected people of color. Radio stations went from being black owned, serving local communities to being a part of corporations that serve stock holders instead of listeners. The real problem Baisden misses is what black radio used to mean for local communities. Black radio at one time was the main authentic source for all parts of black culture.
While the FCC gives license to radio stations to service local communities, corporate owned stations have cleverly figured away around it. While Baisden thinks the problem is that he needs to be on WBLS. The real problem is that WRKS is gone. All their public shows, community outreach and all the things that they did for the millions of people in New York for 30 years are gone.
Black radio has turned into a corporate machine, pumping out a pre approved playlist of corporate hits. WUVS-FM in Muskegon, Michigan is a prime example of what black radio should be. The LPFM (low power FM) is black owned and with only 100 watts and is highly successful. Earlier this month, WUVS held a local job fair that landed residents over 500 jobs. Locally owned and operated stations can do big things. Black radio needs to lead by examples like this: The Beat 103.7 Job Fair
Syndication music-radio morphed from Tom Joyner to the dominant force it is today in Black corporate radio. Out went local talent, music and public service and in went condensed playlist and cost cutting measures that benefit stock holders and not listeners.
Black adults are 75 times more likely to hear syndicated radio than their white counterparts. Black music radio is syndicated more than any other music based format in the country. Corporate America has systemically taken away black voices. One of the people doing it is Michael Baisden. It’s ironic that he’s talking about black radio and the lack of voices. He’s killed local issues, local music and he’s part of the corporate structure that’s done it.
That’s how the black microphone has been muted – having fewer voices on that only talk about certain issues and don’t deal with local communities except to come in and do a concert or party.
I give them black radio credit for backing Obama’s campaign, Jena 6 and being out front on the Trayvon Martin case but there are issues that happen in local communities that syndication never talks about. Black radio rarely missed local issues that now are merely part of the distant past. Black radio was the rock of the culture. Now black radio is a corporate mess that it’s really not black radio, it merely looks and sounds black.