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Traveling up and down the AM and FM radio dials, one appreciates how transient the voices and accents are. Station names change and formats quickly come and go. There have been winners and losers, but in general, country and Spanish-language formats have won and black stations and voices have lost.
Despite this, some station owners have — besides making a profit — used their positions to do good work. That was certainly true of KDKO 1530-AM, a black-owned, black-run station that fell victim to nonexistent community support.
But KDKO, the only commercial voice talking to and about Denver’s African-American community was sold, soon to be reborn as a talk radio station, KNRC.
The painful fact is the community that KDKO had supported for so long wouldn’t support it back. There have been sporadic community laments about the station’s demise but little activity to try to replace it or to remedy its loss. The crux of the matter is, unlike others, the black community has great difficulty supporting the media that caters to it. KDKO’s fate is symbolic of much that happens in it.
To understand the value of community support, all one has to do is listen to the Spanish-language stations on the radio dial and watch the many Spanish-language TV stations. As the national black media fade, the numbers of Hispanic radio stations and TV companies continues to grow. And even when some Hispanic media properties change hands, they maintain their Spanish voice. The Hispanic community more robustly and actively supports its media than the black community supports its own media presence.
BET, the black television network, continues to be the one source of black entertainment: a fountain of foul-mouthed, hypersexual and intellectually bereft content. Cynically, Viacom, BET’s owner, shows no intention it’ll change its winning, money-making format.
According to Tamara Banks, a longtime Denver TV and media personality, the weak black community support of black media is a symptom of community fragmentation and lack of cohesion, not a lack of black capital or leadership. “Lots of good people are doing good things, but they’re disoriented and uncoordinated,” she says. “To support the black media, they need a greater focus.”
Bee Harris, publisher of the Denver Urban Spectrum newspaper, thinks that the black community could, financially and morally, be more supportive of the black radio, print and electronic media. They mistakenly believe black media will always be here without their active support or participation. She says many black businesses and concerns could, like Hispanics, play a pivotal role in growing the black media. Sadly, they don’t.
(Posted on August 2, 2007)