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Is Black radio in jeopardy?

May 29, 2009

by Minister of Information JR

Iyanna Jones, Executive Producer of the groundbreaking film "Disappearing Voices: The Decline of Black Radio"
Iyanna Jones, Executive Producer of the groundbreaking film "Disappearing Voices: The Decline of Black Radio"
Longtime Black Michigan Congressman John Conyers has written a bill that is now moving through the House of Representatives called the Performance Rights Act, which would require the payment of a performer’s fee to play songs on AM and FM radio stations, along with satellite, cable and Internet music services.

Kathy Hughes, the owner of Radio One, which many in the Black community deem the Black Clear Channel, has issued a clarion call to Black people saying that Conyers’ bill will kill Black radio. But the question remains: Is Black radio now in jeopardy or has true Black radio that is accountable to the community been dead for decades?

Iyanna Jones is the executive producer of the groundbreaking new film, “Disappearing Voices: The Decline of Black Radio,” which looks at the history of Black radio in relation to where it is now in this country.

Media is a very important tool that can be used to educate and liberate us – first in thinking, then physically – or dumb us down to control our minds and keep our bodies captive.

Fifty years after the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement and 40-plus years after organizations like the Black Panther Party used the medium, Black radio is only a shadow of its former self today in comparison to how the Black community used it in those days. Back then, Black Radio was to our social and political movements what color is to photography:

It is not a necessity but it does embellish feelings and emotions on the subject.

That is why I wanted to check in with one of our community’s national experts on the questions at hand. So kick back and keep reading. Iyanna may captivate you with her answers …

M.O.I. JR: Be it that you recently released your documentary on Black radio, how do you feel about the Performance Rights Act, which would require AM and FM radio stations to pay a performer’s fee to play songs – also satellite, cable and Internet music services?

Chuck D of Public Enemy has been doing radio for a long time.
Chuck D of Public Enemy has been doing radio for a long time.
Iyanna Jones: I think to pay artists on major labels that are getting a lot of money or are getting huge advances should not be a priority as far as the Black community is concerned.

However, it might very well help independent artists who need the exposure to get some radio play. But at the same time, some artists are the victims of draconian, slavery-type deals. Because of the nature of the music business it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Kathy Hughes or a Percy Sutton in this situation; they are bound to have interests that differ either moderately or greatly from those of the Black community, and we would do well to keep that in mind.

M.O.I. JR: Kathy Hughes of Radio One came out and asked people to go against this specific piece of legislation “to save Black radio.” What did you think about Black radio before this controversy? What do you think about Kathy Hughes and Radio One?

Iyanna Jones: I never get into personalities. I don’t know Kathy. But anybody Black in media is going to be conflicted if they try to play the game. Serving the Black community vs. keeping your business afloat or staying relevant versus staying authentic is the timeless Black identity struggle in this capitalist society. It is sad that when we talk about Black radio we seem to only point to a Kathy Hughes. We don’t have 40 or 50 people like her that we can point to in Black media.

The Black station owner’s struggle is a struggle to stay in business. Where’s the struggle to keep Black concerns at the forefront? The answer is because there’s no money in investigative journalism from a Black perspective. There’s no corporate incentive to keep the Black community informed. Most of the information we receive is second hand from other news services. There is no mainstream interest in providing us with information that is going to put us ahead.

I understand Kathy’s argument. The bottom line is that Black stations are struggling financially, but is that really a Black community struggle? I don’t think so. I think those are two different struggles, especially since the Black community’s main complaint is that their culture, their values and their mores are not represented on these so called Black-face stations.

Nobody who has a militant message or a radical message is given a national platform unless they are right wing. So can we be critical of Hughes, of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters? Yes. But we still must remember that this system was not designed to empower Black people. At the very least, this struggle should force those station owners to ask themselves what they are willing to do for the Black community.

M.O.I. JR: For those that do not know, what is the name of your film and what is it about?

Melvin Van Peebles, a legendary writer, producer, and director
Melvin Van Peebles, a legendary writer, producer, and director
Iyanna Jones: The film is a feature length documentary called “Disappearing Voices: The Decline of Black Radio.” It’s a controversial documentary directed by U-Savior Washington and narrated by Wayne Gillman of Air America and WBLS that will be made available to the public in June 2009 in time for Black Music Month. You can order it at www.disappearingvoices.com.

While not a complete history of Black Radio – that would take dozens of volumes and decades to complete – the film offers viewers a well rounded discourse that touches on the impact of Black jocks not only on radio but on the very fabric of American life. We have rare interviews with prominent figures like Melvin Van Peebles, Gary Byrd, Chuck D of Public Enemy, M1 of Dead Prez, Kae Thompson and Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets and with air checks by famous jocks like Frankie “Hollywood” Crocker, Enoch “The Dixie Drifter” Gregory, Jocko Henderson, Hal Jackson and Eddie O’Jay.

Disappearing Voices does more than examine the factors that contributed to Black radio’s demise. It is an expose, a history lesson, a memoir and a source for solutions.

It’s one part historical exploration – it explores the history of broadcasting in general and Black Radio in particular – and another part detective, investigating what made Black radio unique and following some of the jocks who contributed to that uniqueness.

Finally, “Disappearing Voices” covers Black radio’s high points and the point at which it took a downward turn. It explores the current environment and what can be done to turn Black Radio around. The film embarks upon an in-depth exploration of systemic racism, Arbitron, Madison Avenue advertising agencies, Black radio station owners and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Black disc jockeys, community organizing and possible solutions to the ailing Black radio industry.

M.O.I. JR: In looking at the state of what Black radio is, do you think it is worth saving? Why?

Iyanna Jones: Absolutely. Don’t be fooled. Radio is still a very powerful and viable platform. It’s more affordable than TV and it’s a far reaching means to keep the community together. It can help develop an economic infrastructure. And the powers that be recognize this.

Look at how the nationally syndicated Michael Baisden organized for the Jena 6. People listened. So even though the quality of programming has gone down, we still listen. And our enemies know this.

And this is why there is always a big business push to control media. It’s not about money. They already have it all. It’s about power and controlling information and therefore our minds.

He who controls the diameter of our thinking controls the circumference of our actions and that’s why there is a vested interest in keeping us dumb. But we have to fight to get radio back to where it needs to be. It’s dying but it’s not beyond recovery.

M.O.I. JR: How has the response been to your film?

Iyanna Jones: Fantastic! Emails, phone calls and even snail mail have been literally rolling in. This is why I say yes, Black radio is salvageable, because the people want to save it. They respect it. They love it. They remember it fondly and they want to restore it to its greatness. Many of the most avid supporters have been people in college and high school, which proves that radio is not an irrelevant medium. Rather it is one waiting to be resuscitated by a younger generation. People keep asking us how they can join the movement.

M.O.I. JR: How do people stay in touch with you?

Iyanna Jones: Visit www.disappearingvoices.com to see the trailer, write an entry on our blog and also pre-order a copy today. “Disappearing Voices: The Decline of Black Radio” will be on sale in June 2009 just in time for Black Music Month. The orders are flooding in. You don’t want to miss out.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com.

18 thoughts on “Is Black radio in jeopardy?

  1. Tra Hitt's

    Yo when she got in the Bed wit the devil she got and is getting what comes from the sleeping with the enemy. Black radio will stay alive its just going to go underground, like Hip Hop, real R & B and so on. They have stopped playing real music for about 10 years or more. Ms Iyanna Jones has been content with duming down our kids with pure garbage in the name of the all mighty dollar. I can’t wait to see her go somewhere far removed from the music game, its way to important to our people for it to be left in her hands anymore! Goodbye and Good written’s

    Reply
  2. Poe

    What an article! Very well written and insightful. Thank you.

    Poe

    Is Black radio in jeopardy?
    by Minister of Information JR

    Reply
  3. lavor Q

    Yes, Tra is correct. Once Mrs. Hughes was down and out like many other black owned stations. But since she got into bed with the other side, “which was a ploy for them to actually take over black radio”, she is getting what she deserve. I predict that she will be coming very soon to ask blacks for their help to save her company. But have shown us, the little guy that she doesn’t give a hoot about us. If it didn’t come from a major label, Radio One would not play it, or it was so hard and costly to the small artist, that he could not make a go of it.

    Nevertheless, I have been preaching this take over game since 1988. No one listened then, and now people from all walks of the music game seem to be an authority on the subject. If you are a wineo makes a prediction, no one listens, Donald Trump can make the same prediction, it becomes a fact.

    Regretfully, You all are to late. Black radio, and Blac Music will never be the same again.

    Reply
  4. otto reyes

    black owned radio allowed itself to be out boogied all through out the 1980′s by black oreinted radio stations aka white/or other owned, but programs to a black listener, instead what black owned radio did was allow itself to emulate those black oreinted stations, also allowing cathy hughes to buy up black owned stations that were already in trouble as recent as 12 years ago, when she aquired those stations many in the community said “she’s saving them.” forgetting that she was adding them to her empire, we now and have known for some time now what type of empire cathy hughes has, this is not about haiting just fact, cathy played the game, now the game has played her, her out is to become black again and leave the urban specilists tag she wanted us to identify with behind.

    Reply
  5. Tori Bailey

    My family owns and operates WZZA Radio. We began broadcasting July 4, 1972 to provide a voice to and for Black people in northwest Alabama. As a non corporate radio station whose decision making power lies within our wals, we are able to play the music that is the soundtrack of our lives, giving both new and established artists an opportunity to “market” and promote their music at no cost to them (driving consumers to purchase cds, ringtone, concert tickets, and more). But we do much more than play music. We provide valuable information about finance, health, current events. We not only encourage voting, but we explain the issues to our listeners in a way that helps them to make informed choices. Then we go further by serving as a watchdog, a place where people can call if they are denied their voting rights (and we go so far as to contact the board of registrars, probate judge, or the state capital if necessary. We realize that our people are not always proactive when it comes to health, so we bring doctors and other health care providers to the radio to share information. We do not want our children dropping out of school, and we don’t want the harrassed by the police, so we work with them via community organizations that are doing good, or we intercede directly on their behalf. And because we do all of these things, our listeners support us. And because they are proactive and visit local businesses to tell them which radio station they listen to, we have businesses who advertise. But WZZA is not the only station that does these things. There are many more around the country just like us. Black radio is not dead, nor is responsible Black radio a thing of the past. This bill is not good for stations like ours, and may cause many of us to decide talk radio is the only alternative. This could have a negative impact on radio, as well as artists who never had a say in HR878 and who are grateful just to have a chance to have their music aired. This will no longer happen with passage of this bill. Before blanket assumptions are made, it would be nice if the experts took time to assess the true impact of this bill on radio stations outside of the top twenty markets.
    Please talk with your congressmen and tell them to vote against this measure.

    Tori Bailey, General Manager
    WZZA Muscle Shoals Broadcasting
    ToriBailey@WZZARadio.com

    Reply
  6. Dave Henson

    Tori I understand what you are saying, but black talk to madison ave has never been to them an appealing format, I remeber working on the bob law night talk radio show back in the 80′s and it was the only nightly national talk show for african americans, wlib a popular black talk station here also in nyc totaly gave up on black talk. Now they are praise formatted. Radio One’s talk set up is weak at best to me, but If you can get local advertiserss behind you I would say give it a shot at least try it. No matter corp or privately owned black radio has to stand up for itself.

    Reply
  7. Tori Bailey

    Of course I didn’t see the typos until after my comment had been posted (which is an indication of the frustration I’m feeling about this), but I do want to at least make the correction that the bill is actually HR 848. I also want to commend Alabama Broadcasters Association for their efforts in seeing this bill defeated.

    Thanks for your response Dave. Wish us all luck.

    Tori Bailey.

    Reply
  8. Uncle Rosy

    Tom Joyner is the only in the mornings giving out information and at the same time he need to lighted up on the comedy.Steve”The Relationship Expert”Harvey Rickey”Mr. Fart Jokes”Smiley and Russ”The Crazy Man”Parr are on the air wasting time with nothing but silliness from the time they come on until the time they get off the air.Michael”I’m not black radio”Baisden has nothing to offer the black community but sex ,lust and lies and then this dude made it off the backs of black people and once he got big,now he’s radio for all races,damn what a sell ass Tom.

    Reply
  9. Uncle Rosy

    That Bamma George”The God Son of Satan”Willborn is even worst for radio and he has no respect for black women nor black kids,yeah that’s my opinion.

    Reply
  10. Uncle Rosy

    Baisden and the others are on the air for profit and fun.Who in the world would want to spend money to see George Wilborn bamma ass,he has no talent.This coon sound like a voice from the old minstrel show era.

    Reply
  11. Uncle Rosy

    Today’s so call black radio aint worth saving,now if you support the silliness that heard 24/7 along with the sex talk subject{from Michael “I love the white folks”Baisden}.Radio One is no different from the Evil Clear Channel{the ones that pay Rush a million to insult black folks}.Michael Baisden,Tom Joyner,Steve Harvey along with Russ Parr and Rickey Smiley need to knock off this stupid stuff with the jokes and deal with some real issues that effect black folks.We don’t have Bob Law any more and alot us as black folks miss him like hell.The Bamma of week,The Color of the day,The Prank phone call,it has nothi ng to offer but a laugh,damn our folks are catching hell from these white folks and coon black folks.Why do every black radio have to have a comedian with them as a side kick.If it wasn’t for Baisden show wouldn’t nobody know jakc about that bamma George Wilborn,this dude is too dirty for day time radio.

    Reply
  12. Uncle Rosy

    I heard this coon Wilborn on the radio saying if you want to be a real African,just put bone through your nose or put a plate in your mouth.Michael just sat there and laughed and he didn’t challenge him or put him in his place.As much as Mike love his white fan base,there’ no way in hell, he would have let Wilborn say something out of order to white folks.Smiley,Joyner,Harvey,Baisden and Parr need to knock off the foolishness and the cooning.

    Reply
  13. Uncle Rosy

    Now this freak from the radio Michael Biasden along with kumbya crew is going around the country to save kids of all races .I guess to suck up to the white people and other groups is more important than helping black with good positive information so we can help our selves.Black radio is more about fun and foolishness and entertainment news instead of real news.Who should we really blame the black community who go for it instead of trying to boycott it or the white folks and the black black who take part in this.Back to Baisden,a man who spend of his time talking about relationship stuff with a side kick has been comedian George Wilborn,who I THINK IS TOO NASTY FOR RADIO.Biasden should have kept this due on once a week,then Biasden claim that the people wanted this dude on five days a week.Biasden had a young caller on the air who had a baby at early age and this guy Wilborn asked her when did she lose her virginity,now if a man asked his daughter that ,he would have doo doo on his self.From our radio,to our Tv shows down to the movies,our image is jacked up and it have us looking weak and looking like coons.

    Reply
  14. Uncle Rosy

    Black parents,please mentor your kids ,you don’t need a freak like Michael Baisden and a jerk like George Wilborn talking to your kids.To even call yourself a mentor,you need to watch how you carry yourself and the things you reflect about your everyday life.Michael might be a nice guy but he seem to be about sex all the damn time and sometime he talk about important issues but he spend more time on the sex stuff.

    Reply
  15. Steven

    Once an angel came to me to grant me to wishes. I asked 4 world peace, she said its difficult and asked me to ask sumthing else. I asked 2 give u brain, she said she will try 4 world peace itself!

    Reply

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