Black History Month 2008: Who’s In Control?
I See Black People: The Rise and Fall of African American-Owned Television and Radio by Kristal Brent Zook
With I See Black People, author Kristal Brent Zook presents a history of the politics of black television and radio. Zook ‘s research includes interviews with broadcasting pioneers such as Percy and Pierre Sutton founders of New York City’s Inner City Broadcasting and owner of WLIB-AM, the first black-owned radio station in Harlem, New York City and Catherine Hughes owner of Radio One and TV One.
The interviews are candid and thought-provoking. Ms. Hughs’ take on BET is interesting and revealing as she says of owner former owner, Bob Johnson “All of us, including myself, beat up on Bob so badly because we wanted BET to be everything to everybody.”
If you want to know who is in control of your television and radio dial, take some time with I See Black People.
When the U.S. Federal Communications Commission loosened ownership rules in the early 1970’s, many smaller white radio station owners, on the brink of losing their licenses for a variety of different reasons, decided to sell their broadcast properties to new minority owners at fire-sale prices.
The FCC sanctioned this practice.
This is how the Commission was able to quickly increase the number of minority owned stations in the 1970’s.
By the late 1990’s, deregulation of FCC rules now allowed multiple broadcast properties to be owned by the same company. This all but eliminated the ability of both smaller African American and smaller white companies to compete with the biggest group owners to obtain new radio and TV outlets.
During this period, both small minority and small white owners sold their stations to the biggest owners.
Remember that almost all U.S. black radio in the early 1950’s was not African American owned. The controversial politics of black performers supervised by white managers within the radio station structure is responsible for a lot of the political tension and history.
I highly recommend “Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio: by William Barlow for the inside perspective from the lips of African American deejays. Their point of view is invaluable.Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/13 at 04:45 PM