Sunday, May 17, 2009

Radio Plays Race Card Music

Radio Plays Race Card Music

Paul Scott

By now you've heard last weeks propaganda campaign by Radio One's owner, Cathy Hughes and others warning that black life on the planet Earth will cease to exist if HR 848 (The Performance Bill) becomes law. The bill will require radio stations to pay a "tax" on the music that they play in order to pay the musicians that recorded the songs. This will, according to them, cause black radio to become extinct.

I don't know about ya'll but it bugs the heck out of me when folks use the general welfare of black folks as a marketing tool.

The comments of Hughes and the rest of the anti-Performance Rights Act crusaders are text book examples of hyped up , hyperbole meant to scare black folks who don't know any better.

Let's keep it really real. Black radio has not been "black" since the late 80's. As the popularity of Hip Hop began to grow and the artists began to cross over to the pop charts, black radio to began to attract white listeners and dropped the "black" moniker and became "urban." To identify too closely with black folks would have the potential to alienate their hip white listeners.

It must also be noted that today, the same music that is in heavy rotation on urban radio is also played on white radio stations. If you take away the occasional Molly Cyrus song, the play lists are almost identical.

So what is the actual working definition of "black radio" in 2009?

For most black folks (who are the targets of the Save Black Radio Campaign) a black radio station is a station that plays "black" music which includes cool white dudes like Robin Thick and Justin Timberlake. Most folks don't feel the need to research who really controls what, so to the lay radio listener, a white owned radio station that plays Hip Hop is the same as a black radio station.

Also, if black listeners did do a little research they would uncover how many white radio executives, programmers and radio consultants are actually involved in what "black" music goes over the airwaves. So the line between black radio and white radio gets real blurry, real quick. Is it really black radio or white radio in blackface? For instance, until she retired in 2006, Mary Sneed, a 50 something year old white woman was the chief operating officer at the now super black Radio One.

Kinda blows the whole black empowerment argument out of the water, huh ?

See, Hughes and the rest of them are seeking support from "radio groupies" who believe everything that they hear on the radio or see on TV without asking questions. But the problem that the radio folks will encounter is that radio groupies are notoriously fickle. Sure, they may have your back today but just let your white competition start giving away free tickets to the next Lil Wayne concert and watch your comrades defect to your enemy's side.

In their infinite wisdom ,the execs at the radio stations are also trying to garner support from the community activists and church folks by saying that talk radio and gospel stations will be the first to go if HR 848 passes. That would be all well and good except the bible thumpin' church folks oppose 99% of what the secular money makers are playing for their babies and the community activists are ticked off that their local issues can't make it to the syndicated air waves. While they may feel bad for black folks who may lose their jobs, as one person wrote, "how many local radio people lost their jobs when their morning radio spot became syndicated?"

Also, there is the falsehood that urban radio contributes to the overall economy of the black community. I dare you to listen to any urban radio station and count the number of struggling local black businesses you hear advertising on black radio. I guess the only people who can afford the rates are the major white companies that know the value of the black dollar; liquor companies, fast food enterprises, etc.

So, the misinformation that is being spewed just doesn't gel with the facts.

Even though urban radio is trying to get props for helping to elect this country's first black president, I don' think the fact that the whining of well off black radio executives over having to pay more taxes sounds very, very similar to the rantings of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of those right wing conservatives who took part in those tax day tea parties, last month is being missed by many black folks.

Although, black radio people are reppin' for Obama and the Democrats, now, you better check their voter registration cards. (I'm just sayn')

The question that black folks are asking on the street is why is this a race issue to be viewed in the same way as police shootings of unarmed black men and educational inequalities?

Because the radio execs see most black folks as prostitutes who can easily be pimped.

However, anyone who has taken time to even glance through Dr Claude Anderson's "Black Labor, White Wealth" or Harold Cruse's "Rebellion or Revolution" can easily see through the charade. But the record execs and their advertisers are relying on the idea that black folks only read Hip Hop magazines, urban novels and the sports pages.

To say that black folks have been through a lot in this country is a gross understatement. So, it is understandable that we are a little sensative when it comes to matters of race. However, this has made us vulnerable to every shyster who tries to paint something as "racism" which is, in essence, just a matter of corporate greed and capitalist economics. So anything that effects their own personal pocket books becomes a grand conspiracy to destroy all black folks.

The real conspiracy is not the demise of black radio but the overall dumbing down and corporate exploitation of the black community. This is the real stage and black radio execs are the actors playing the part.

To borrow from Jay Z , there are 99 problems facing black folks but this ain't one.

Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots He can be reached at (919) 451-8283