Why are so few radio and television stations currently owned by African Americans?
The airwaves are public resources; they belong to the people. And yet minorities, who form 33 percent of the population, control only 3 percent of the broadcast media. African Americans own less than 1 percent of all television station in the country. How did we reach this point?
In I See Black People, journalist Kristal Brent Zook talks with the people who have struggled to retain an independent voice within the media despite the consolidations that have swept through the industry. Zook tells the story of Dorothy Brunson, one of the first African American women to own a radio station in America, and Catherine Liggins Hughes who faced overwhelming challenges establishing Radio One but ultimately became the first black woman in the country to own a publicly traded company. Set against these rare examples of success are people like Robert Short, who lost his Syracuse station in 2000 and describes the negative impact that this had on his local community. And Chauncey Bailey, who made it his life’s work to bring local African American programming to Oakland, California, but was tragically murdered earlier this year while working on a story.
I See Black People makes a powerful case that ownership does matter. When the media fails to reflect the diversity of its audience, it is inevitably the voices of the least powerful that vanish first from the airwaves.