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March 23, 2004

NY's Black Talk Radio Bumped for New "Liberal" Network

For radio people like me this is big news. WLIB 1190 AM has been Black radio icon since before I was born, one of the two biggest Black-owned stations in the city, along with their FM sister station WBLS (originally WLIB FM, I believe).

WLIB has been best known for its politically oriented talk shows, and their owners Inner City Broadcasting have always promoted the station as a voice for the local Black community, much like my station WBAI provides an outlet for those shut out of the mainstream media.

Their most famous host was Gary Byrd, who collaborated with Stevie Wonder on "Black Man" and "Village Ghetto Land", plus his own Wonder-produced mid-80s rap record "The Crown." Byrd was seen hosting his WLIB show in Spike Lee's Bamboozled (since then he has moved over to WBAI).

As you can see on their (cheesily Flash-heavy) website most of their airtime goes to Carribean music nowadays. But switching it to a mostly white talk network is still a major shake-up.

Also note: In the NY Times insanely long profile of Al Franken, who headlines the new network, they mentioned that Chuck D would be co-hosting one of their shows alongside Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead, but now it appears he is backing out.

Air America Will Displace Black Talk On WLIB

New York's radio station WLIB-1190 AM has been loyally "serving New York's Black community" - as its logo states - for decades now. In the early '90s WLIB was lauded as a resource for "Afrocentric" programming and became known for featuring Imhotep Gary Byrd's "Global Black Experience" show.

The station was in many ways a Black activist outlet.

But by the end of this month, WLIB will be taking on a different hue, as it joins the launch of Progress Media's "Air America Radio," the new, predominately White, liberal talk-radio network. Air America has reportedly partnered with Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC), which owns WLIB.

"We are excited about the diverse and important voices Air America Radio is bringing to the airwaves, both on our own WLIB signal and others," said ICBC Chairman Pierre Sutton. "This strategic partnership allows both companies to combine our resources and deliver relevant messages to a broad and diverse audience..."

..."I don't get it. I mean, I do not get it," local activist Elombe Brath said about Air America Radio's takeover at WLIB. Reports are that WLIB's 40th floor station has been remodeled for Air America, and that the 30th and 39th floors are also being re-built to suit the needs of the new network.

Brath, who hosts and produces the show "Afrikaleidoscope" on WBAI-FM, and who played a part in the Afrocentric reorganization of WLIB's programming back in the early 1980s, complained that if listenership was down at WLIB, the station should have restructured from within as it did in the 1980s.

"All of the talk should be organic, from within the Black community," Brath insisted. "How can they think about coming into New York with a package program like this? We have people here already who know radio, who can do shows. And they want to come in with a program from other people trying to talk to Black people in New York City? [WLIB] is just a station that has been stripped of what it's supposed to be!"

Posted by jsmooth995 at March 23, 2004 6:24 PM

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