Tuesday, May 27, 2008

THE LOSS OF LOCAL BLACK RADIO NEWS

BRUCE DIXON, BLACK AGENDA REPORT Black commercial radio station owners, like all other broadcasters, hold their licenses on the condition that they faithfully serve the public interest. But commercial black radio, whether owned by African Americans or not, is failing that test. Commercial black radio treats its audience exclusively as a market, not a polity, and acknowledges no public service obligation worth mentioning. . .

The near disappearance of broadcast radio news is somewhat masked by the growth of talk radio, but whatever talk radio is, it is not news. . . This year's State of Journalism 2008 by the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism showed that the majority of talk show topics are indeed riffs on news stories, but talk shows do not break new stories, or conduct the investigations that break the stories. . .

We are witnessing the disappearance of black America's ability to talk to itself in, and to hear its own authentic voices. If Dr. Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Improvement Association were conducting their historic bus boycott under today's media regime, few people outside that city would be aware of it, and many black citizens inside Montgomery itself would be in the dark as well.

In the heyday of civil rights activism many African Americans, especially in the north, had no direct ties to the student movement or to those churches and other organizations which were active participants in the Freedom Movement. They learned about the movement the same way many white Americans did. They saw it on TV, they read about it in the papers, they heard about it on the radio.

Black radio, back in the days when locally produced news coverage was a staple of the medium, played a major role as transmitter and conveyor, as the very circulatory system of public consciousness in African American communities. In 1973 there were as many as 21 reporters from three black radio stations covering national and local affairs in the Washington DC market, providing broadcast constituencies with a rich diet of news and public affairs coverage upon which that community thrived. This was not too different from Atlanta or Chicago or Detroit around the same time. . .

Commercial black radio, including black-owned Radio One, is in a self-serving but highly profitable rut. Spin the dial in any major market from coast to coast and you get the same handful of artists singing the same songs, whether the genre is Gospel or Hiphop or anything in between. At one time, local artists could contact local deejays, and get their music on the air in their home markets. If they succeeded there, stations in other markets might pick it up. . . . Black radio not only doesn't do news, it doesn't do art or entertainment very well either.

1 Comments:

At May 27, 2008 7:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Self-ghettoization, irrespsctive of race, will in the end nearly always lead to an incestuous rut. It's laughable to see those who trumpet the richness to be found in such ideas as 'diversity' and 'multiculturalism' championing what amounts to self-imposed segregation as a way to greater pluarlism of expression, and then falling into a state of shock when the end product turns out to be nothing more than narrow, single-viewpoint junk. Radio One should be a clear object lesson to those who believe that minority owned corporate entities are somehow magically free of the same lowest-common-denominator, bottom-line corruptions that their white-run counterparts are.

 

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