Aug 17, 2012 blackexaminer
I occasionally use my daughter’s car to drive my grandsons to school and daycare. Her radio is tuned to either a gospel station or the Tom Joyner or Steve Harvey syndicated morning shows. Although I prefer listening to the news stations, she does not have any preprogrammed on her radio so I end up listening to whatever she had on. I generally find the shows light and entertaining. The jokes, gags and skits are funny and the on-air personalities keep their audiences informed about the lives and antics of Black entertainment celebrities and sports figures. This morning’s Tom Joyner show is typical of the daily fare. He and his on-air sidekicks poked fun at NFL football player Chad Johnson’s problems with the law and his team following his arrest for domestic violence (he was charged with head-butting his reality show wife of 41 days); played the entire interview of Michelle Obama and Olympic gymnast Gabbie Douglas on the Jay Leno Show; and let a talent show contestant sing the Larry Graham rendition of One In a Million. In addition to on-air contests of one sort or another both shows promote concerts and vacation getaways.
Millions of Blacks tune their radios to these shows during their morning drive to work or school. Radio has a tremendous impact on Black opinion because we are 75 times more likely to listen to syndicated radio than our white counterparts. The problem with syndicated radio, however, is that it rapidly and steadily silencing Black voices; matters of great import to the Black community are being ignored.
The 1996 Telecomm Act, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, lifted ownership limits and ushered in a new era of corporate media ownership. As a result, an alarmingly large number of local Black radio stations around the country have been purchased by large corporate conglomerates that are beholden to their stockholders instead of the interests of local Black communities. Black owned and formatted radio stations are now an endangered species headed toward extinction. The new “Black radio” that is taking its place is no longer an authentic or reliable source of information to the Black community nor does it contribute in a meaningful way to Black culture. Content has been dumbed down. Local talent, music, news and public service announcements have been replaced by pre-approved playlists of corporate hits, petty gossip that masquerades as news and various entertainment promotions. This is not to say that Black syndicated radio does not deal with issues important to Blacks because it does occasionally. It eschews delving into anything controversial, however, no matter its gravity or consequences for the Black community. Thus, corporate-owned stations and syndicated shows that target the Black listener market have muted the Black microphone.
“Black radio rarely missed local issues that are now a part of the distant past. Black radio was the rock of the culture. Now black radio is a corporate mess that is really not black radio, it merely looks and sounds black.” Truer words were never spoken.