THE WLIB CONUNDRUM

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Stated one Harlemite upon learning of the change, “I knew they’d find a way to mess things up again. First that Air America, now this

WHOSE RADIO STATION IS THIS ANYWAY?
 
By now most of you have heard about WLIB’s sudden format change.  Not only is it viewed as yet another attempt to silence the Black community, but a direct attempt to muzzle Gary Byrd, whose show, “Mind Flight� has been keeping the community informed and updated after too long an absence.
 
Stated one Harlemite upon learning of the change, “I knew they’d find a way to mess things up again.  First that Air America,  now this.  Whoever’s running the station obviously doesn’t care about the Black community, or they don’t know what they’re doing!�  other comments included:  “Look what they’re doing to Gary (Byrd)!  Why would they do that?  He was really doing so well.  He was making a difference.  People were tuning in!� 
 
Amidst the pain, disappointment, and yes, disgust, meetings are  being held all over the community to determine what to do about this turn of events.   We reached out to  Betty Dopson, president of the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People (CEMOTAP) who concurred that it was possibly the worst programming decisions ever.
 
According to sources at WLIB, who asked not to be identified, there had been plans to  merge WLIB with Radio One, owned by Kathy Hughes, who had been having difficulty getting a radio station in the New York area.   Things however went awry because of personal issues that apparently were “more important than the consummation of a transaction that would have been mutually beneficial to both entities.  Allowing personal issues to scuttle the plans to merge was, according to the source, “the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.�
 
Clearly there were some fans who enjoyed  the acerbic pronouncements of Air America, it was evident that it was not a good match for WLIB, which was “hemorrhaging dollars profusely since the programs inception in 2004.  They had leased the time originally to thwart Bush’s efforts for re-election, claiming that the truth needed to be told to the Black community and New York in general.  Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell them that the Black community already knew the truth, and didn’t particularly like the idea that their own Black talk show hosts were supplanted by white ones, who were just as capable of  keeping the community informed.  It is now rumored that Air America will be broadcast via WWRL, which is also alleged to be facing financial troubles. 
 
Interestingly enough, Deon Levingston has claimed to be surprised that the community would react negatively to a 24/7 Gospel Music format and stated that he had surveyed the religious community before making the decision to change the format.  However, it’s doubtful they would  answered a survey that asked specifically: “Do you think WLIB should be made into a 24 hour all gospel all the time radio station?�  Probably a question like that would have gotten a resounding “NO!�.   Levingston claims that the New York market area is 85% talk, and WLIB was part of a crowded market, thus giving rise to the question of whether he really knows the New York African American community, which is totally different from the mainstream white community.  Mr. Levingston, who is originally from Indiana, previously worked for Emmis Communications, owner of KISS-FM..  While WLIB and WBLS are both Black owned and Black run, and Black oriented radio station. 
 
According to our inside source Mr. Levingston acts as though they were programming for “purple� people, not African Americans.  According to Betty Dopson, “He seems to be unaware of the wishes of the community.  CEMOTAP has reached out to him to negotiate a program that would provide a balance of gospel and relevant information to the community.  He had been invited to the evening’s meeting, but explained that he was already too consumed with trying to put together a format for the September 1 start date.� 
 
Per Betty Dopson:  “The Community will not allow this to take place. We are not opposed to gospel music.  But we need news that’s relevant to our community, our life styles.  When  LIB filed their BPS, (required by the FCC)  they said their purpose was to provide news and public affairs information relevant to the Black community.  We have no problem with them making adjustments, but certainly don’t want them to muzzle the  community with 24 hour gospel.  We have a community that encompasses all these things.  We are not monolithic, to ay the least.  We are not to be ignored or pushed aside.�
 
Ms. Dopson, who had just completed a strategy meeting with members of CEMOTAP, continued:  “We see this as a move to keep Gary Byrd off the air.  His show is essentially cancelled.  The radio station  (WlIB) has a long history of having to fight off efforts by different entities to silence the Black community.  “However, we are not going to get in the middle of a cat fight.  We would like to have this completed as amicably as possible.  Our strategy will center around maintaining a balanced programming format that responds to the needs of the Black community, while at the same time offering gospel music, news, public and community affairs of relevance to Black people. It is clear that the African American/Caribbean community has to take a stand for what they want and not be pushed around.  And we understand that there are others behind the scenes who are trying to manipulate the situation by threatening to withhold advertising dollars.  However, the Black community does have the wherewithal to also provide advertising revenue for our radio stations, as well.�
 
Dopson also stated that Inner City Broadcasting was a holding company for 19 other radio stations across the country, and had just made a huge deal with General Elecric (GE) that netted them $147 million in revenue, “so they’re not hurting for cashflow, so any allegation that they were losing money on Air America may well be true, but it’s not really affecting any bottom line. 
 
The meeting with Levingston is scheduled for sometime the first week of September.   We will be monitoring the progress and keep you informed as results are made known ot us.  Gary Byrd, who started broadcasting positive, relevant, news to the Black community in the 80’s,  can still be heard over WBLS and WBAI.  

Individuals interested in contacting CEMOTAP can do so by calling (718) 323-8454. 

Have a wonderful life of peace, poise, prosperity, blessings, love, abundant health and wealth, and a whole lot of fun, or the next best thing -- that is,  unless you've made other plans. luvya, Gloria

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