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Category Archives: African American and Entertainment

Television Viewing – Making Smart Choices for Your Child

by Sharon Rechter

The issue of children and television viewing has been debated for many years, including whether they should be allowed to watch at all.  As the mother of two young girls myself, I understand the challenge of determining at what age they can be first exposed to TV, as well as what types of programming can provide the most benefit to them.

While some may regard television simply as an electronic babysitter, I think it’s important to understand that as with many other activities, television can actually be used as an important tool to enhance the development of our kids.  It starts with parents doing research on what is available, and seeking out the kinds of shows that are designed by developmental experts.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 95% of American babies watch television, so from my practical perspective, the question isn’t “should children watch TV,” but rather, “what are they watching, how much and under what conditions?”  Content is absolutely key.  If it’s appropriate, educational and non-violent, children can learn and have a very positive experience.

It’s also important to vary the types of programs your kids watch.  The younger the child (especially babies), the greater will be their natural tendency to gravitate toward their favorites.  Be sure to continually refresh the content you select, offering your child exposure to new and exciting things.  In the long-term, this will help keep their interest, while nurturing their development.

Of course, just because a TV show is educational, it is essential that limits be set on the amount of time that children are allowed to watch.  As with all aspects of parenting, a healthy balance should be maintained, with plenty of time allocated for reading, creative play and spending time outdoors.

Ideally, parents should watch television together with their children.  Not only does this foster bonding, it also allows you to become an interactive part of the viewing experience.  Concepts that are introduced during viewing can be reinforced and built upon by moms and dads.  An easy way to do this is by exercising their memory skills after a program has concluded.  Ask your child about what they saw and heard, such as the names of favorite characters, noises the animals made and songs they enjoyed the most.

Moreover, watching together provides an excellent opportunity for emotional bonding.  Providing immediate positive reinforcement to a child, especially when they may be too young to communicate verbally, can be critically important to their emotional growth.

Ultimately, each child and family’s experience with television will be different.  In my own experience, I’ve found that my daughters have learned a great deal from age-appropriate educational TV.  They even learned sign language!

The company I co-founded, BabyFirst, decided to produce a television series called, I Can Sign, that helps parents communicate with their very young children before they’re able to speak.  I found it to be an amazing way to interact and connect with my girls, and it really fostered a bond with them long before they had learned to talk.  That was a few years ago, but we still use it as a “secret language” between us.

There is constant debate as to the “right way” to raise a child, and most parents ask a lot of questions and experiment quite a bit before they find what works best.  Because television viewing is a reality in today’s homes, parents can take advantage of it as very versatile tool that can introduce their children to a wide variety of new ideas, while helping to reinforce early education.

About Sharon Rechter

Co-Founder, BabyFirst

Sharon Rechter, along with business partner, Guy Oranim, conceptualized and co-founded BabyFirst (www.babyfirsttv.com), which is a global TV channel for tots. In her role as executive vice president, she leads the business development and marketing activities for the company – with a clear passion to bring quality, new educational programming to families of babies and toddlers.

Rechter has a broad background in television programming and recently served as the vice president and head of operations for The Israeli Network (the Israeli television channel in the U.S.). She was responsible for the general management of the network, and focused on areas including business development, advertising and subscriptions. Before entering the television broadcast industry, Rechter headed the strategic planning department at GNS Advertising in Israel where she was responsible for developing strategic plans for a variety of lifestyle brands.

 

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Invisible Men: Why It Matters That There Are No Black Male Couples on TV

Some of America’s favorite couples are gay men in relationships: Cam and Mitchell on Modern Familyand Kurt and Blaine on Glee. And this TV season brings more that the networks hope you’ll love: Brian and David on the heavily advertised The New Normal, and Louis and Wyatt on Partners. But something is missing: there are no African-American gay male couples at all on mainstream TV. Gay couples on TV allow gay men to see themselves reflected in the larger culture, and normalize them to others. Where are the role models for African American gay male couples on TV?

In five separate studies, Professor Edward Schiappa and his University of Minnesota colleagues have found that the presence of gay characters on television programs decreases prejudices among viewers, providing a forum for the general public to observe and interact with the lives of gay men. Exposure to these images normalizes gay couples, so much so that Ann Romney reports being a fan of Modern Family (although apparently not a fan of gay marriage).

A media revolution in the portrayal of gay men and women has occurred over the past 15 years. We have evolved from a time when being gay was unmentionable on TV, to the inclusion of gay characters as stock comic stereotypes, and are now seeing gay males and females as central characters in TV programming. For a long time they could be gay; they just couldn’t show daily tribulations and mainstream issues of same -ex couples. Now they can, but apparently they can’t be a black gay couple (though I’m focusing on men, the small screen isn’t exactly packed with African-American lesbians either).

True, cable channels have featured gay African-American males in and out of stable relationships. The unforgettable and violent Omar Little on HBO’s The Wire was gay in an extremely homophobic milieu but he wasn’t celibate: he had three partners over the series’ run. Logo’s Noah’s Arc gave us the lives and loves of four gay black men and included a married couple. But these shows were featured on channels that are not accessible to a large proportion of the population, and in the case of Logo, catered to a largely gay audience that doesn’t need persuading of the existence of same sex couples of color. These characters would never have seen the light of day if planned for the coveted Thursday night slot on NBC.

According to the CDC, between 2006 and 2009, HIV infection among African-American men who have sex with men between 13-29 years old increased by 48 %. The reasons for this dramatic increase are not easy to parse out but certainly the double whammy of racism within the gay community and homophobia within the African-American community play a part. The secrecy and shame around homosexuality contributes to invisibility. An invisible man believes that he has no need for health care or safer sex, or doesn’t imagine he can form forming a healthy relationship .What if these young men saw images of guys like them — or older — living and loving safely and productively? As we have seen, over time, that could be a key part of inspiring different behavior and eliminating bias. Seeing oneself reflected in the larger culture is a crucial part of self-acceptance as well as acceptance by others.

I’m not suggesting that giving Mitchell and Cam an African-American gay male couple as neighbors will end AIDS. But just as The Mary Tyler Moore Show helped make the world more comfortable for single, urban women, and The Cosby Show introduced us to an upper middle class African-American family, showing black gay male couples on TV will change minds — and over time, it could help save lives.

This op-ed was written in association with The OpEd Project

 

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Michael Clarke Duncan, 54, Dead from 2nd Heart Attack in 2 Months

Acclaimed black actor carried hit urban films and an Oscar-nominated picture

 

Michael Clarke Duncan, the unmistakable screen and voice actor in many hit urban and mainstream films, including an Oscar-nominated performance in “The Green Mile,” died Monday morning in Los Angeles, his fiancé, reality TV star Rev. Omarosa Manigault, said in a statement released by their publicist. Duncan, 54, suffered a fatal heart attack. The actor was hospitalized for another heart attack in mid-July and never fully recovered, according the statement. Duncan was best known to African American and wider audiences for his roles in “The Players Club,” “Planet of the Apes,” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Before turning to acting full-time, the muscular 6-foot-4 Duncan worked as a bodyguard for rapper Notorious B.I.G. and actors Will Smith and Jamie Foxx.

 

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Searching for media images that affirm black children

By Amanda Miller Littlejohn

As a kid, I booked a date with NBC each Thursday night, like millions of other African Americans, to watch “The Cosby Show.”

In my house, watching the show with my mother and brother was a family event all its own. At about five minutes to 8 p.m., my mother would yell “Cosby Show!” and my brother and I would abandon our homework, Barbie dolls and GI Joes to catch the opening of the show and scat the jazz theme song. Our eyes would light up to see such beautiful, accomplished brown people dancing tastefully, giving loving glances at each other and smiling contentedly.
Phylicia Rashad and Bill Cosby starred as Clair and Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” for eight seasons. (NBCU Photo Bank – NBCU PHOTO BANK)

I was reminded of this family ritual when I read Reniqua Allen‘s July 13 Outlook article “Why isn’t the Cosby Show for a new generation on network TV?” She argues for network TV — not cable — to bring forth a show that portrays the joys and annoyances of black family life in the new millenium. I second her suggestion.

Being a child of the ‘80s, I had no idea how major it was to be able to see people who resembled my parents on prime time TV each week. Though my mother and father were not doctors or lawyers, they had achieved a degree of success — my dad was a brilliant engineer, and my mother a business analyst for the government. Oh, and both of my parents — like Bill Cosby and his Heathcliff Huxtable character — loved jazz.

But aside from the “Cosby Show” and its HBCU-centered offshoot “A Different World,” most of the television that I consumed was mostly populated by non-brown people. My one magazine subscription — Seventeen — was also overrun with girls who looked nothing like me. I remember thinking as early as age 11 how odd that was.

Fast forward 20 years and I find myself the mother of two smart brown boys who, like their mother before them, dine on a steady diet of images that overwhelmingly do not resemble them. Instinctively, when my kids were brand new, I would search the Disney Channel, Nick, Jr. and Sprout for cartoons that showcased people of color because I know how critical it is to see yourself reflected in  the media that you consume. My husband and I were absolutely excited when we came across a cartoon show called “Little Bill”. Created by none other than Bill Cosby, I thought, “This is what my little boys need to see — a black family living together, working together and loving each other.”

The show was beautifully done, scored with original jazz and brought to life by gorgeous full-color animation. But there was just one problem. Whenever I saw Little Bill was coming on, I would get excited but the kids wouldn’t. To my dismay, they, to put it honestly, just weren’t feeling Little Bill. They preferred “Go Diego Go.” My husband and I decided that it wasn’t because Bill was black, but more because he was so pitiful — always getting defeated and feeling sorry for himself. In short, Little Bill was a victim. My kids preferred the take-charge nature of Diego, the adventurous little Hispanic animal rescuer, or his cousin Dora the Explorer.

The search for positive and affirming media images continues.

While I am not holding my breath for another Cosby Show, I am making sure that my kids see real-life examples of positive African-Americans in the other media they consume. I search for coloring books that feature black characters (which are impossible to find). I routinely seek out children’s books that feature black characters. One of my early standards was the classic “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats. And I’m always on the hunt for more recent titles like journalist Jabari Asim’s “Whose Toes Are Those” which produced this uber cute dramatic “reading” from my then 3-year-old Logan. But I  also strategically place copies of Essence, Ebony and Black Enterprise Magazines around the house so that they just might stumble upon a copy, tear through and see people who look like them. I honestly try to limit the amount of mainstream television they watch so they don’t hear those subliminal messages that can seep in when you’re a racial minority and you don’t see yourself reflected and affirmed in the majority media: “This isn’t your world. You don’t belong here. You’re not one of the beautiful ones.”

Because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the beautiful ones. And for now at least, I think they still believe that they are, too.

How do you make sure your kids are exposed to positive portrayals of African Americans in media? What books do you recommend for your young black children?

Amanda Miller Littlejohn is a writer, mother of two and owner of the public relations and branding consultancy Mopwater Social PR.

 

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Magic Johnson’s ASPiRE Network Goes Live on June 27th at 8:00 PM Eastern

–Schedule will Feature an Entertaining and Inspiring Mix of Original and Groundbreaking Programming –Oscar® Nominee Laurence Fishburne, Comedian Jonathan Slocumb, Actor Omari Hardwick and Grammy® Winner Esperanza Spalding Join the Lineup as Programming Hosts

ATLANTA, June 27, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — ASPiRE, the new television network from Magic Johnson Enterprises, debuts today, Wednesday, June 27 at 8:00 pm EDT with a unique mix of original and groundbreaking programming aimed at African-American viewers. The network will launch with inaugural distribution partners Comcast and Time Warner Cable. At launch, ASPiRE will be available in approximately seven million homes and in 16 of the top 25 African-American markets including New York City, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, DC. ASPiRE also will launch on FAVE TV and with five charter brand partners: The Chrysler Group, L’Oreal USA, Nationwide Insurance, Coca-Cola and Walmart. ASPiRE will celebrate its historic kickoff tonight with a private, star-studded event at Cipriani Dolci in New York City.

Joining the network as hosts of its primetime programming blocks are award-winning actor Laurence Fishburne (Boyz ‘n the Hood, The Matrix, School Daze, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”), who will host “Groundbreaking Movies”; actor and comedian Jonathan Slocumb (Meet the Browns, “The Steve Harvey Show”), host of “Groundbreaking Comedies”; Actor Omari Hardwick (Sparkle, I Will Follow), host of ASPiRE’s first original series, “ABFF Independent”; and Grammy Award®-winning musician Esperanza Spalding, host of “Groundbreaking Music.”

ASPiRE’s mission is to entertain, enlighten and inspire. It will shine a light on the positive contributions African-Americans have made to American culture and be a window through which we can experience the next generation of ground breakers and game changers.

ASPiRE will offer a diverse slate of programming spanning five categories: movies (including features, documentaries and short films); music; comedy; visual and performing arts; and faith and inspirational shows. The network’s initial schedule will feature the following programming blocks:

Groundbreaking Movies (Thursdays, 8 p.m.) – Renowned actor Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Boyz ‘n the Hood) will guide viewers through the background, cultural relevance and historical significance of each night’s selection. Currently scheduled films include Shaft, Rosewood, Bird, Sarafina!, Bustin’ Loose, The Defiant Ones and Lilies of the Field.

Groundbreaking Comedies (Tuesdays, 2 p.m., 8 p.m. & 11 pm) – Hosted by actor and comedian Jonathan Slocumb (Meet the Browns, “The Steve Harvey Show”), ASPiRE’s Groundbreaking Comedies will celebrate trailblazing Black funnymen and women with iconic TV series including “The Bill Cosby Show” (Chet Kincaid), “The Flip Wilson Show” and more. Slocumb will share with audiences the known and not-so-known facts about the shows, their stars, and their enduring influence on popular culture. Groundbreaking and original standup comedy performances will also be featured.

Groundbreaking Music and Performance Specials (Fridays, 8 p.m.) -Hosted by one of the biggest breakout stars of 2011, Grammy Award®-winning jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding (Chamber Music Society, Radio Music Society), this unique night of programming will present musical performances by pioneering and influential artists from every generation and genre. ASPiRE will also present examples of African-American theater, dance and visual arts, offering viewers a chance to enjoy the wide spectrum of talent in the African-American creative community. Programming will include “Jazz Giants of the 20th Century,” “Make It Funky!” and “Earth, Wind & Fire in Concert” to name a few.

“ABFF Independent” (Mondays, 8 p.m.) – This weekly two-hour original show, hosted by actor Omari Hardwick (Sparkle, I Will Follow), will present the best shorts and feature films from emerging African-American writers, producers and directors, selected from the American Black Film Festival (ABFF).

Groundbreaking Documentaries (Wednesdays, 8 p.m.) – Fascinating films chronicling the real-life events, people and places that shaped the course of African-American history and culture, currently scheduled documentaries include Academy Award® winner When We Were Kings, Rising from the Rails: The Story of the Pullman Porter and Oscar’s Black Odyssey: From Hattie to Halle, among others.

“I ASPiRE” Featurettes – These 30- and 60-second shorts offer intimate profiles of and by the next generation of groundbreakers and game changers across African-American culture. The short films feature a dynamic selection of creative talent including concert pianist Jade Simmons from Houston, painter Matthew Thomas from Memphis and surfer Marcos Chatman from Los Angeles.

“It has been a long-held dream of mine to launch a television network that offers viewers inspiring and positive portrayals of African-American lifestyles, accomplishments and talent, while also creating opportunities for the next generation of artists and storytellers,” said ASPiRE Chairman and CEO Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “My vision for ASPiRE could only become a reality with a group of visionaries and bold charter brand partners, The Chrysler Group, L’Oreal USA, Nationwide Insurance, Coca-Cola and Walmart. I am thrilled to have GMC TV as my partner along with our affiliate partners Comcast, Time Warner Cable and FAVE TV to help make this dream come true.”

Added ASPiRE General Manager Paul Butler: “It’s tremendously exciting to be part of a new venture that we all believe is poised for great success. I look forward to implementing Earvin’s vision and to making ASPiRE a top viewing choice for African-American households, as well as the next big platform for the African-American creative community.”

ASPiRE was selected by Comcast from among over 100 candidates as one of four new minority-owned independent networks to be distributed to millions of households on Comcast’s digital basic tier.

GMC will provide operational support for ASPiRE, including affiliate and advertising sales, marketing, programming, production and technical operations. Charles Humbard, GMC President and CEO, said: “We are delighted to be partnered with Earvin Johnson in the creation of this new network. Between his inspired leadership and our day-to-day operational experience in programming for, and marketing to, African-American audiences, our two brands are a perfect fit.”

ASPiRE expects to be available in over 12 million homes by the end of 2012 and in 20 to 30 million homes by the end of 2013.

About Laurence FishburneOscar nominee Laurence Fishburne is a critically acclaimed star of movies, television and theater as well as a playwright, producer and director. His numerous film roles include What’s Love Got to Do with It, The Matrix, Boyz ‘n the Hood, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Mystic River, Akeelah and the Bee, Othello and Higher Learning. On television, his credits include “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” The Tuskegee Airmen and Miss Evers’ Boys, as well as an Emmy-winning guest performance on “Tribeca.” On stage, Fishburne won a Tony Award® for his performance in “Two Trains Running.”

About Jonathan SlocumbRenowned for his ability to crack up even the most jaded audiences with his squeaky-clean humor, Slocumb is best known to fans of the “The Steve Harvey Show” as Steve’s band-mate Clyde, a role he played for five years. He has hosted numerous awards shows, appeared on “Jamie Foxx Presents Laffapalooza” for Comedy Central and played the part of the pastor in the Tyler Perry comedy Meet the Browns. Slocumb is also the creator, host and producer of GMC TV’s original comedy series “Ha! Standing Up for Clean Comedy.” As a stage actor, he just completed a national tour with the play “Cheaper to Keep Her,” starring Brian McKnight and Vivica A. Fox.

About Esperanza SpaldingIn 2005, at the age of 20, jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding became the youngest faculty member in the history of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her first solo album, “Esperanza” (2008), was the year’s best-selling album by a new jazz artist internationally and stayed atop the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart for over 70 weeks. In 2011, Esperanza released her ground-breaking internationally critically acclaimed Chamber Music Society and received the Grammy® for Best New Artist. She has performed at the White House (twice), been featured in a Banana Republic ad campaign and received the Jazz Journalists Association’s 2009 Jazz Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year. Esperanza has just released Radio Music Society, her follow up to Chamber Music Society, a kaleidoscopic collection celebrating the power of song. The 12 songs are accompanied by conceptual short musical films, which further express Esperanza’s inspiration and story behind each track. The videos were shot in various locations including New York City; Barcelona, Spain; and Portland, Oregon.

About Omari Hardwick Hardwick’s numerous film credits include Sparkle, I Will Follow, For Colored Girls, Kick-Ass, The A-Team, The Guardian, Beauty Shop and Gridiron Gang. Also known for his television roles, he played Ty Curtis on TNT’s “Dark Blue,” opposite Dylan McDermott, and was John “Sack” Hallon on the 2006 TNT series “Saved,” opposite Tom Everett Scott. The multi-talented Hardwick was a football star at the University of Georgia, where he minored in theater, and has written over 4,000 poems.

About ASPiRESpearheaded by entrepreneur and NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, in partnership with GMC TV, ASPiRE delivers enlightening, entertaining and positive programming to African-American families that includes movies, documentaries, short films, music, comedy, visual and performing arts, and faith and inspirational programs. ASPiRE celebrates African-American heritage and groundbreaking cultural achievements and will create new opportunities for the next generation of African-American visionaries. For more information, visit http://www.aspire.tv .

About Magic Johnson EnterprisesMagic Johnson Enterprises acts as a catalyst for driving unparalleled business results for its partners and fosters community/economic empowerment by making available high-quality entertainment, products and services that answer the demands of ethnically diverse urban communities. For more information, visit http://magicjohnson.com/enterprises .

About GMC TVGMC ( http://www.watchGMCtv.com ) is America’s favorite television channel for uplifting music and family entertainment. The Parents Television Council(TM) has twice awarded its Entertainment Seal of Approval(TM) to GMC for being “an authentic family-friendly cable network.” GMC is the only television network brand to be so honored. GMC has been the fastest growing entertainment network in television in the key demographics of W18-49 and W25-54.

GMC can be seen in more than 51 million homes on various cable systems around the country, as well as DISH Network on channel 188, DIRECTV on channel 338 and Verizon FiOS on channel 224. Follow GMC TV on Facebook and Twitter at http://facebook.com/gmctv and http://twitter.com/gmctv .

SOURCE ASPiRE

Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

 

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“BlackPlanet Next” Retools Black Social Networking

BlackPlanet NextInteractive One, the largest digital media company serving Black Americans [and the parent company of NewsOne], announced today the launch of BlackPlanet Next, the next evolution of the iconic BlackPlanet.com social networking website. BlackPlanet Next is a social curation engine targeted towards the African-American consumer that makes connecting with friends and discovering new information easier, more fun and more culturally relevant.

In 1999, before MySpace, Friendster and Facebook, BlackPlanet.com launched as the first social networking site targeting African Americans. The site has since grown to serve 2 million users worldwide, making the BlackPlanet name an industry mainstay and a significant communication tool within the Black community.

“Many websites have been created to target African Americans, but very few digital products exist specifically for those who see the world through a Black lens,” said Navarrow Wright, Chief Technology Officer, Interactive One. “BlackPlanet Next will not only connect millions of people online, but also it will serve as a reminder of the importance of diversity of professionals and products in the technology industry.”

Local, Social, Mobile

BlackPlanet Next connects people with locally relevant information through their friends and other BlackPlanet Next users who share their interests. Each member can add his or her favorite places such as restaurants, clothing stores and live art venues to the site, post comments and tips about the location, and check in whenever they visit. BlackPlanet Next will suggest other places he or she might like based on the reviews and suggestions of the BlackPlanet Next community.

Keeping in touch with family and friends, and sharing life’s moments is easier with BlackPlanet Next. Users can post photos and short updates that appear on their connections’ activity stream. The activity stream can also be viewed by category including photos, videos, link and updates with a quick keystroke.

Connecting through music is a cultural tradition among African Americans and an important feature of the new BlackPlanet Next. BlackPlanet Radio, the digital industry’s first social radio website targeted towards African Americans, was launched in November 2011 and allows users to discover new music in a variety of ways, as well as create playlists from a library of more than 14.5 million songs to share with their social network communities. By streaming straight from BlackPlanet Next, users can share their personally curated musical tastes with their online community.

BlackPlanet Next also serves as an aggregator, bringing together content from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and more into a space curated by each user. By adding their favorite social networks to their BlackPlanet Next profiles, users’ followers can access all of their online content in one place. All of the features of BlackPlanet Next are available on a variety of mobile devices.

A Brand Connection

“BlackPlanet Next is the only sure way for brands to reach Black audiences in a social environment,” said Keith Bowen, Chief Revenue Officer at Interactive One. “There will be more opportunity to create custom branded experiences authentiacally connecting brands with their consumer. Brand Pages and traditional media opportunities are available as well. We look forward to working with our advertising partners on creative ways to connect with their target audiences.”

To experience BlackPlanet Next, visit http://www.BlackPlanetNext.com

ABOUT INTERACTIVE ONE

Interactive One has more than 15 million members and reaches millions of Black Americans each month. With approximately 3 billion annual page views on its suite of sites, the company has become the definitive social network for Black America through BlackPlanet (www.BlackPlanet.com), as well as a number of leading content sites. These sites include: NewsOne (www.NewsOne.com), which provides up to the minute, comprehensive coverage of newsworthy events relevant to Black Americans across the country and the world; TheUrbanDaily (www.TheUrbanDaily.com), the eyes and ears for Black Americans looking for what’s hot online, on the airwaves, in theaters, and on the street; HelloBeautiful (www.HelloBeautiful.com), the definitive lifestyle resource for today’s Black woman; Elev8 (www.Elev8.com) a site devoted to elevating the mind, body and spirit; and introducing BlackPlanet Radio (www.BlackPlanetRadio.com) the digital industry’s first social radio website created for African American community.

Interactive One was launched by Radio One in 2008 to complement Radio One’s existing portfolio of media companies targeting the African-American community. Since its launch, Interactive One has quickly become the #1 online platform for the African-American community. Interactive One is powered by the mission to create an online community that engages and positively impacts the lives of African Americans.

 

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People of Note: Bob Law Tackles the Question: ‘Is Black Radio Under Threat of Disappearing?’

by Deardra
bob law

Bob Law

*Is Black Radio in threat of disappearing? In April, New York’s KISS-FM radio station was merged into WBLS. “Open Line” a popular talk show was kept, but the Michael Baison Show, also popular, was not, thus the merge did not include all of the KISS-FM programming. Now there is fear that WBLS itself is about to be bought by YMF Partners. This has prompted former WWRL “Night Talk” Show host, Bob Law, to file a petition along with Councilman Charles Barron, Michael North and Betty Dopson of the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People, asking the FCC to delay the sale of WBLS to YMF since YMF cannot purchase the station without FCC approval.

A community activist, Bob Law is the founder of the National Respect Yourself Youth Organization, which established a national network of Respect Yourself Saturdays involving academia. The respect organization has operated a baseball little league, a summer entrepreneur program which helps young people start their own summer business. He is also the organizer of the New York Peacekeepers campaign which encourages non-violence.

A filmmaker, Law is involved in film projects with the Black Spectrum Theatre in Queens, where he is chairman of the board. His play, “The Magic Clown,” a play for children, is being performed in NYC Public schools. He is also the author of “Voice for the Future.” Mr. Law is the owner of “Namaskar,” Bob’s Health and Wellness store, and Bob Law’s Seafood Cafe, located in Brooklyn.

In 1949, WLIB was purchased by the New Broadcasting Company headed by Morris and Harry Novik. Although White-owned, the Novik Brothers served ethnic audiences, targeting the Jewish and African American communities. The station eventually became the voice of the Black community, with the Noviks developing a press room and a Community Affairs department that allowed the Black community to utilize the station for their own public affairs announcements. By the 1950s, disc jockeys such as the late Hal Jackson were part of the on-air staff. The staff also included actor William Marshall and Victor Bozeman. By the 1960s, WLIB was one of several commercial jazz stations in New York featuring radio jocks such as WLIB’s Billy Taylor, Del Shields and Ed Williams who built up a large listening audience and worked together to establish a radio music format that is used to this day.

In the 1970s, there was a political outcry by African Americans for a black-owned radio station. Due to political pressure and after years in radio, the Novik brothers were ready to retire. Therefore, the Noviks looked for someone to buy the station that would meet with the approval of the Black Community. Therefore, when Percy Sutton, backed by several black investors came along, the Novik brothers felt Sutton met with the approval of the Black Community so chose Sutton just as much as he chose them. Sutton and his backers bought the station and formed Inner City Broadcasting. Eventually Inner City fell into bankruptcy and now their stations are under threat of being bought by YMF Partners once YMF obtains FCC approval. It is the contention of Messrs. Law, North, Barron and Ms. Dopson, that it was predatory lending and the Arbitron ratings system that helped to reduce advertising revenue (which is oftentimes doled out disportionately to black Media), that brought about the bankruptcy. They are also concerned that once YMF gets the approval from FCC to purchase WBLS, YMF will simply turn around and sell it to a mega corporation that will eliminate the black format for their own format. Thereby effectively wiping out black talk media and thus eliminating the black voice which reflects Black culture in NY.

“I am not sure it’s coincidental that there is an effort to silence Black voices and dismantle Black radio,” remarked Law. “This agenda is set to go full steam in this election year. The Million Man March was supported by black radio since there was no popular political support, Black or white, who supported the march. Black Radio told the people to go when the politicos said not to go. Did the people go? So then who had more clout and influence?” stated Bob Law. “As I see it, this may have brought attention to the powers-to-be concerning how influential Black radio is, thus the desire to silence it” stated the community leader.

“So what happened next is, Black radio was made unprofitable. This happened via a consistent and deliberate under counting of black listeners in NYC and perhaps across the nation. Arbitron (the ratings company) has been accused of giving out information to the ad industry that under counts black listeners so the radio station cannot get paid for the audiences they actually deliver. No matter how well these stations perform, their performance is being under counted. When Andrew Cuomo was attorney general, he brought a lawsuit against Arbitron here in NY. The language in Cuomo’s indictment said “Arbitron was willingly and knowingly giving out incorrect information to their clients, both ad agencies and radio stations, and they were doing so to the detriment of black radio stations.” Cuomo’s findings said “…that Arbitron’s numbers is so far off and black radio is being so underpaid, that it is actually causing the financial demise of black radio.” In February 2012, the Attorney General in Los Angeles, California, also brought a suit against Arbitron stating nearly the same thing Cuomo said in his litigation. Arbitron settled out of Court, although I have yet to see they corrected what they were doing,” remarked Mr. Law.

“There is a thing they do in ad agencies called “Minority Set Aside,” wherein X amount of dollars are set aside for minorities. But all the minorities dip into this same “minority set aside” pot, no matter if one minority station is doing better than the Hispanic or Asian stations, or vice versa. Therefore, those whose market numbers may surpass the others, still cannot get the money they earned since the amount of money is fixed.  This is part of the process of how these minority radio stations are kept poor in spite of their performance,” claimed the former “Night Talk” host.

Bob went on to say this is not just a Republican agenda since some Democrats are also involved.

“Bill Clinton when he was president authored and pushed through a telecommunications bill which took the limit off of how many stations someone can own and removed all the protections the general public had in how the airwaves were used. Clinton’s legislation said that anyone can have as many stations as they want as long as they can afford to buy them. Who can afford as many stations as they want? Disney can, MS Clear Channel can, CBS can, Fortress can, and all those mega companies can. But the little stand alone stations cannot afford to compete with these huge corporations. I believe Bill Clinton knew that full well when he authored his bill. I think it was a conscious and deliberate decision on Bill Clinton’s part when he orchestrated this bill. Of course, these smaller stations want to own more radio stations. This puts the smaller stations in the position of having to purchase a cluster of stations in order to attract the advertisers who advertise with the bigger corporations. Since the bigger corporations can approach the advertiser and say advertise with us because we can run your product ads in our “multiple” stations while the smaller station can only run your product in their “one” station. So where do you think the advertiser is going to advertise? Therefore, in order to stay in business, the minority stations and the black owned stations were forced to buy other stations. And, that is when the predatory lenders came along. The predator lenders gave loans insisting that black stations had to allow the lenders veto power in their stations, power to vote on policy, and be involved in the stations’ operation. These bad deals were made because the stations could not get loans from the banks.  Therefore,could only hope to pay these predators off as soon as possible. The Black owners found out that they had made a deal with the devil and their loan became a loan to own scheme. The fact that the lenders had insinuated themselves into the daily operations of the station, making policy for the station, made it virtually impossible for the stations to pay the money back. Then of course the predatory lenders began to demand their money and thus forced the stations into foreclosure and into bankruptcy so these lenders could seize the stations. So now what we are looking at — is the loss of black voices from the airwaves, not just in NYC but across the nation,” continued the community activist and author.

“Advertisers looked at the Arbitron figures and told Black stations that “Black” doesn’t sell. Yet, advertisers make huge profits from the Black communities even though they do not ask black folks for their money. White advertisers as a whole do not advertise in black newspapers, radio stations, newspapers or businesses. Yet, black folks spend their money with these white advertisers freely. Our FCC petition, we understand, (and we do not stand alone in this petition), may not be granted. We will see. But we think that the FCC will more than likely rule against the people and opt to go with the big money, ignoring our petition no matter how strong our argument is and/or how credible,” said Bob, of what he expects will happen in terms of the petition he and others filed to stop the sale of the last black radio station in NY.

Bob discussed what he thinks the Black community must do — not only to keep their radio stations but to secure their position as a culture within the rapidly changing American society. According to Law, Black people are not paying attention.  He is concerned that all minorities need to pay attention to the political climate around them that has an impact on them whether they think it does or not.  It impacts them via educating their children and surviving economically and culturally.

“The Black community as consumers will have to come together. We have been intimidated and embarrassed and made to feel that to mention black is being racist. Some black folks feel that way because others have convinced them that nothing black has any merit. And because they have that mindset, everything is being taken away from Black folks — from our dollars to our vote. It’s time to step up and not be silenced or sidelined. We need to learn critical spending. Begin to spend our money wisely. We do not have to march in the streets, we simply need to go to our pantry and ask ourselves can I do without these products. Look around your homes and determine what you really need and what you can do without. Do you need that pizza, that coke, that beer? You don’t even have to sacrifice that long, just long enough to get the advertisers attention. Tell these advertisers since they are not paying attention to the people or believe that black people for example, are a huge consumer market base, show them you are. Just stop buying and see how long it takes before these mega-corporations start missing your dollars?” concluded the playwright, activist, author and entrepreneur.

Take back your consumer power because that is a viable power. One that will not be ignored once you show the powers-to-be you know how to cleverly use your consumer power.

If you wish to hear more of the interview with Bob Law, click ontohttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/blakeradio/2012/06/17/topically-yours–radio-personality-and-author-bob-law-2

 

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