February 20, 2011

Black Talk Radio Yesterday, Today & Beyond

What is Black Talk Radio? Quite simply it is a phrase that has been around since the first radio station was created that featured Black disk Jockey’s spinning records featuring Black Music artist primarily for a Black listening audience.

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According to Urban Radio Nation:

“America's first black radio station with an all Black on- air staff that programmed Black music all day is WDIA in Memphis, Tennessee. In the fall of 1948, WDIA began assembling its air staff.

The first black owned radio station was WERD Atlanta in October 1949. Jesse B. Blayton Sr., a well-respected businessman and accountant from Atlanta purchased it in the late 1940s, and hired his son Jesse Jr. to run it. Also hired was "Jockey" Jack Gibson, among the most popular black DJs.

The station was housed in the Masonic building on Auburn Avenue, then one of the wealthiest black neighborhoods in the United States. Located in that same building was the headquarters of the new Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Dr. Martin Luther King. It has been said that King would beat the roof of the office with a broomstick as a signal to send the microphone down when he wanted to make public addresses.

Petey Greene - Radio's first shock jock Soon after his release in 1966 from prison, Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene was hired by Dewey Hughes, the program director for the radio
station WOL-AM in Washington, DC. Dewey first became aware of Petey’s talent during a chance meeting in Lorton, Va. prison as he was visiting his brother, a fellow inmate. Taking a big chance with his own career, Dewey believed in Petey’s voice and put him on the air. “Rapping With Petey Greene” was an immediate hit with the DC community. His appeal rapidly grew, and he soon found himself hosting his own television show.

Dewey Hughes, along with his wife Cathy Hughes, purchased WOL in 1980. In 1976 she helped develop "The Quiet Storm" show at Howard University's WHUR and became general manager at gospel station WYCB in 1978. When the two divorced, Dewey Hughes sold his interest in the station to Cathy. She went on to become founder of Radio One, with WOL as its flagship station, now the largest African American owned radio company. The company is now headed by her son Alfred Liggins III.”

This is just a brief history and timeline of the development of Black Radio which now includes Black Talk Radio. The Black radio stations played an integral role during the civil rights movement as it gave voice to the movement and made it listeners aware of what was happening around the country. Black Radio would be represented by hundreds of voices and the on air talent was often local and the station not only played music but discussed issues and shared news important to those Black communities they served.

Then came syndication.

According to multiple sources, “Radio syndication generally works the same way as television except that Radio networks generally are only distributors of programming, and individual stations which are often owned by large conglomerates decide which shows to carry.” Since most local stations are owned by these huge conglomerates, with the exception of right wing talk radio, most of the Black Talk Radio offered to listeners consists primarily of a few national hosts playing music and rarely discussing topics of substance like social or political issues and news. The few programs aired on syndicated radio are hosted by celebrities or those so-called civil rights leaders who often sell out for corporate financing.

In 1994 with the internet broadcast of a rolling stones concert using technology called m-bone, a new future in broadcasting was set in motion. Over 33 million people listen to Internet Radio yet Black people have been slow to create capitalize on this technology. While there are thousands of individual Black Internet Radio hosts and podcasters, they are mostly confined to creating content that others are capitalizing on while little of the revenue generated is shared with the producer. To add insult to injury, you now have one company asking producers to pay to be exploited. In most cases, these media producers are unaware of the fact that they do not own the content they create and broadcast on platforms that are not owned by people of color. The Black Talk Media Project hopes to change that and has a vision of bringing Black radio producers together to create and build the worlds largest Black radio network while allowing producers to retain full ownership rights of the content they produce. Not only can we work together to create online networks but we can branch into the terrestrial airwaves community by community and solicit local on air talent and create online networks specific to cities and regions

In the 1960’s Malcolm X said that media is the most powerful entity on the planet because it has the power to control the minds of the masses. There is a direct link between the deviant behavior in the Black community and the media that it used to target it. As we enter this new millennium, a new era in new Black media is at hand, the only question is will you be a part of the process in working towards a solution for the Black community.

In closing please listen to Martin Luther King Jr’s 1967 speech to Black Radio producers. Thank you to Davey D’s Hip-Hop corner for putting this clip together.


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