Are you noticing that some of our community’s most influential Black on-air personalities are disappearing from Cox Media’s urban radio stations? Tamara G, Michael Baisden, Shelby Rushin, Benji Brown, Rick Party and even Felisha Monet are no longer on air. The attrition rate is undeniable, and as an advocate for the Black agenda, my antennas are up.
The Founders of South Florida Black Business Directory at HOT 105/Cox Media discussing the Black Dollar and its trillion dollar impact.
According to Dexter Bridgemen, the president of the Blacked Owned Media Alliance (BOMA), “with new
management comes new formating.” The changing of the guard is normal and typically, local personalities are replaced with syndicated shows where possible to save costs. However, it was in my conversation with South Florida radio pioneer Jerry Rushin, that I realized “Black radio has been changing for years.” In fact, the transition from Black radio to urban radio is more than just schematics, its the systematic; devaluing of Black on-air talent, minimizing the economic impact the Black voice has on the Black listening audience. This is why advertisers are eager to pay what it costs to saturate urban stations, dictate aspects of urban radio programming, and control how and where the Black Dollar is spent.
Yet at one point, Black on-air personalities would report more than just the time, temperature and tune. Rushin said they would “report what’s happening in our community inclusive of social, economic and political issues.” However, as radio involves, personalities are required to sell more and talk less. Yet, at Excitement Radio, The Final Say internet radio personality Edwin Sheppard believes “Black radio personalities have an obligation to update and uplift the community.”
For that reason, I was not surprised when Shelby Rushin said, “Black radio personalities with ties to the community are being removed from air.” My surprise lied in the realization that beyond the mic and local notoriety, Blacks are not being promoted to power positions at most urban stations. This widespread lack of representation that we see across the country and throughout various corporations in a multitude of industries explains this out of touch behavior that is running rampant with companies such as H&M, Starbucks and the Waffle House. “There is no connection, loyalty or empathy towards the Black community or its issues”, says Shelby. In fact, she recalls that upon arrival, new management removed pictures of the station’s history, accolades and the achievements of Blacks (inclusive of the works of her father, Mr. Jerry Rushing) from the walls, and painted the walls white. Additionally, subsequent to Shelby’s dismissal from the station as the mid-day chic, Hits Program Director, Jill Strada, was promoted to Program Director for 99Jamz as well. One may easily conclude that Shelby’s replacement will most likely be a Black voice that can be easily silenced and/or disregarded by the decisions of Cox Media’s all white managerial department.
In speaking to Jimmy Nickerson, CEO of JNICK Management Group, a marketing consultant firm, he is deeply concerned with the optics at Cox Media’s urban radio stations. He stated that management at the media conglomerate needs more Black representation, and he is currently conceptualizing an action plan where advertisers, media management and community stakeholders can discuss options. The fact is Black people make up 20% of the population yet we have zero representation in sales, programming and management. Bridgeman believes “this is why you need organizations like BOMA, The South Florida Black Business Directory, and every organization that pushes the Black agenda. As individuals and/or employees, we cannot tell a multi-million dollar company what to do. Accordingly, it’s time to start having conversations about ownership” and implementing of a cohesive plan to convey a common message about economics, not race.
In conclusion, even with Black faces out front, the Black listening audience has to become a more conscious consumer of Black media. Equally, Black media influencers must empower and promote Black owned radio and internet stations such as YoPodner.com, Excitement Radio, Mature Life Radio, WMBM, and StrongArm Radio. In an interview with RadioFacts, Rick Party is mentioned as “having learned a long time ago about the importance of not just being a broadcaster but also an entrepreneur.” This lesson is in alignment with Nickerson’s conclusion, “we cannot just be an item on the menu but we must be present at the table as a manager, owner and/or stakeholder.” Accordingly, I strongly suggest that we remember the business aspect of the show and make a choice to re-evaluate the economic impact of Black voices on white owned urban stations.