Radio One's Success

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Q: When you set out in broadcast what was your goal and how much would you say have been achieved?
CH: When I became a broadcast owner, my goal was to provide employment opportunities for 1,000 people of color in the broadcast industry. I am now close to 2,000. It has been very rewarding and fulfilling. The things I fantasized about, being on radio, creating employment, being my own boss on radio. My dreams have come true.

Q: Where do you see the future of radio with the advent of satellite radio?
CH: Satellite radio is a paid medium. Terrestrial radio is still an excellent business. It has a future that certainly will be altered but not destroyed with the advent of new technology. When you take a look at the masses of radio listeners, a free medium is going to remain the number one medium. When there is a crisis and there’s something you need to know, you need something that is readily available.

Q: You have had tremendous success with Radio One. Talk a little bit about TV One. When did you conceive it? Talk about some of the challenges.
CH: I consider myself and Radio One as still a work in progress. TV One is strictly the dream and vision of my son Alfred Liggins who is the President and CEO of Radio One. That makes it sound like he’s a boy. He’s now  40 years old, in January. As a young man who literally grew up in the radio industry, when he was 15 to 16 and watching BET he said ‘Ma let’s go into Cable. Let’s now just stay in radio.’ That’s not what I wanted to do. When he took charge as CEO he went into it. It was his dream from start to finish. TV One is the first subsidiary of Radio One. All six million of our viewers are giving us rave reviews. It’s only nine months old and we already have six million viewers. The growth is up to the cable companies.

Q: What can people do to influence this?
CH: People can start calling their cable companies, their satellite companies. Our viewers were not requesting for TV One they were demanding for TV One. It took 25 years for there to be an alternative to BET. Some people wanted BET to be everything. They are a music video channel. When we hear some  Black folk say there is nothing on TV. That’s not entirely true. There was nothing in TV for African American adults. If you were over 25 and had a job and had responsibilities where do you go? That was not in Bob Johnson’s realm of responsibility. That was the responsibility of the cable industry. The cable industry created seven Spanish stations.

Q: What are some major challenges for TV One? I know advertisement sale is difficult.
CH: BET has 80 million viewers, we have 6 million. So the biggest challenge is getting tens of millions of homes. Getting the services available to their homes. This decision can be done by cable companies. People can call their satellite company and Cable company and demand for TV ONE. Advertisers have been waiting for 25 years to reach African American adults on cable. All the advertisers are waiting for is for us to have more viewers.

Q: Can you give me a projection over the next few years?
CH: Our goal is to have 20 million viewers by the end of 2004. We want to be about 40 million in 2005. We want SUBS (subscribers) 50 million by the end of our third year. That’s our corporate and  personal goal.

Q: Do you have plans for the New York Market in near future for radio or TV?
CH: Absolutely. The problem with the New York market is that Clear Channel and Infinity already have clusters. WBLS was at one point the number 1 Station in the USA. That’s because they were number 1 in New York and when you’re number 1 in New York you’re number 1 in the entire country. That was before deregulation. WBLS is now competing with clusters. It’s very difficult for broadcasters of color to compete with clusters. We have a similar situation in Los Angeles. We are fortunate to have Steve Harvey as our morning show host. Otherwise we face similar challenge in LA from clusters. We need to have another FM radio station to survive in LA. When you are competing against clusters you cannot offer the same type of advertising rate. That’s why some of our publications cannot compete with these companies that own several other magazines when you just have one magazine. You need to have enough critical mass to make it feasible for advertisers.

Q: This almost suggests the need for joint operation among Black broadcasters.
CH: We would be honored to have joined with WBLS. That would be another dream come true. Over the years we have talked about it. It’s all about timing. I pray that in the not so distant future I see us coming together. A wonderful partnership would have been BET and Radio One. It was discussed but we were not able to work out particulars. It’s too late now BET is now owned by Viacom.

Q: What about magazines?
CH: I don’t know if we would go into print. Electronic media is our specialty. But that does not mean that we will not attract talent that has print background. Again that could change. We were not knowledgeable and skilful about cable before. Now we have TV One. Jonathan Rogers President and CEO TV One was President and CEO of the Network at the Discovery Channel.

Q: What do you do in terms of programming?
CH: Right now the majority is acquired – 70% is acquired. We will be producing news, movies, documentaries. But not until we have the numbers to watch it.

Q: What is the secret to success?
CH: It’s a belief in God and from there a belief in oneself. Perseverance. Dr. King said ‘If you are a street sweeper, sweep the streets to the best of your ability and one day the whole world will recognize you as the best street sweeper. There is something bigger and more important than you. No matter what name that being is referred to by. There is only one God, called by many, many names. We are the creation of that superior being, you then have the ability to do whatever. You’ve got to conceive it in your mind, believe it in your heart, then your body can achieve it.

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