November 29, 2015

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First Mediaworks

03/07/05 Are We Living in 1920?
To apply for an FM frequency in New Orleans, I was gathering public ascertainments as part of FCC requirements at the time. The process took me to the small town of Port Sulphur, LA, which would be the city of license of the 106.7 frequency I was later granted. While in town to meet with community leaders, I stopped at a restaurant to grab a bite. I will never forget the sign over the back door of the building: N----- Entrance. N-----s entering the front door will be shot. My response was visceral: fear, disappointment, disgust, disbelief. I pulled out of the parking lot as fast as I could.

That same day I met with an African American minister, who opened my eyes to the reality of the community. Blacks living in the county were not allowed by mandate of city officials - to have running water or electricity in their homes (which were shacks). Oppressed by the local government, these people were treated like slaves. The year might as well have been 1920 - but it was 1980.

I'd like to think this kind of behavior has been eradicated by now, even in the deepest parts of the South, though I'm certain pockets remain. To my surprise, it has not been eradicated in the advertising industry.

More than 10 years ago, I wrote an editorial about the shame of advertisers who had no-urban dictates from business owners who believed African American stereotypes, and thus did not allow their ad dollars to be spent on Urban stations. Many Japanese car companies were guilty at the time.

Unfortunately, many companies still advise their agencies not to place ads on radio stations with Urban formats. It's not a matter of not targeting African Americans; these stations meet all buying criteria and listenership levels. Yet, if they are considered urban stations, the agencies are not allowed to buy the time. On a recent conference call, Radio One's Mary Catherine Sneed highlighted this as a major issue still plaguing stations that appeal to African American audiences.

It's hard for me to believe this behavior is still occurring in 2005. The entire media industry must stand against companies with no-urban dictates. Our agency readers must turn down business from any company asking them to implement advertising discrimination. Our radio readers must stand with their fellow broadcasters who are being discriminated against and send the signal that advertisers who discriminate will not be accepted on any station. Enough is enough.

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