The Tanking Of Radio One

Posted: October 20, 2008 in Commentary, Headlines


“Radio One, meanwhile, is being replace in S&P’s SmallCap 600 by MS Technologies. Radio One closed Thursday with a market cap of $22 million, S&P said, and the minimum to be included in the index is $250 million.”

FYI, Radio One also owns a 40% stake in TV One. Guess who owns the other portion? The major owners are Comcast and DirecTV. The last I checked, they are White-owned companies.

Despite a few self-produced shows, most of the channel’s line up is made up of old reruns of popular shows from the past. I still like Martin, but there is only but so much Martin I can take.

I seem to remember many moons ago Bob Johnson hitting the same roadblock when BET first started. I remember how the lineup was filled with old reruns of shows like Desmonds, What’s Happening, What’s Happening Now, etc. In the book “The Billion Dollar BET: Robert Johnson and the Inside Story of Black Entertainment Television”written by Bret Pulley, he talks about how difficult it was in the early days of BET to get funding from advertisers who had limited experience with Black television.

The black-owned agencies liked what they heard. But their clients, the big consumer products companies, fast-food restaurants, and auto manufacturers, had never spent any money on black-targeted television. […] “We tried real hard, “recalls Lewis. But “our clients were not prepared to spend the money to be on the network.”

In a recent interview (I am unable to find the link. I’ll keep looking and post it when I find it), Johnson talked about how music videos — not so much the other shows — generated a substantial profit that helped to keep that network afloat. As hip hop videos became more vile over the years, critics in the Black community began to hammer him for ‘making Black folks look bad’. What has been so ironic about that charge is while Whites were becoming a growing part of BET viewership, Blacks continued to watch the channel as well. Here is an excerpt from a interview Johnson gave some time ago where he talks about his plans for BET from the start.

“Johnson, who goes by Bob, says he never started BET to be anything more than a money-making entertainment channel. “I never really embraced that notion that BET was an heirloom that belonged to the greater black society,” Johnson says. “BET was a business that had a great impact on African-American society, but it didn’t belong to it. And so, my thing is that we want to contribute, we want to add value. But we have to operate according to the philosophy that you have to exist in a world where business decisions have to be made based on business, not on political notions or social agendas.” (more…)

Spike Lee called him a “sellout” when Johnson was able to actually find a buyer for the network (which at the time was in the red). Never mind his creation of a bank that caters to Blacks and other minorities. Never mind his ownership of hotels, car dealerships, etc. that CREATE wealth for others.

Forget all of that. He is still a “sellout”.

Today, BET has grown to include such networks such as BET J, BET Gospel, BET Hip-Hop, BET UK and a partnership with Starz.

Now the question for the Black owners of Radio One is “Are they willing to endure being called “sellouts” if faced with the decision to sell their stake to another company?” Based on their recentĀ delistment from the S&P, I’m sure the question has crossed their minds.

  1. In a near-perfect world, struggling enterprises like TV One would be purchased and taken over by a team of financially elite blacks, to prevent them from falling apart, or into the hands of non-black owners. But we don’t live in a near-perfect world. Not even close.

    So, Radio One will do what is best for its bottomline and shareholders, regardless of what the potential ramifications of that may be, including being called “sellouts.”

    As long as profit is the sole motivator, all other bets are off!


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