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11 F.C.C.2d 175 (1967)


December 6, 1967



[*175]  The Commission authorized transfer of control of station WAIV (FM), Indianapolis, Ind., from Calojay Enterprises, Inc., to Indianapolis Radio Corp., both of Indianapolis, Ind. Commissioner Johnson issued a concurring statement.




Programming for the Negro Community


Today, in a Commission action without opinion, the FCC has unanimously approved (with one abstention) the transfer of ownership of an FM radio station in Indianapolis to a group with substantial Negro ownership.  I believe this is an event deserving of comment.

Radio is in the midst of a dazzling renaissance.  As noted by a recent New York Times magazine, radio broadcasters have "[recaptured from TV] their old audience piecemeal by directing strong appeals to specific fractions of the population."

Radio's reappearance in this new guise brings great promise and, some fear, some problems as well.  Both promise and problems are illuminated by the present case.


In this proceeding, the owners of Calojay, Enterprises, Inc., licensee of station WAIV-FM of Indianapolis, have asked the FCC's permission to sell their stock to Indianapolis Radio Corp. WAIV-FM presently uses a "classical" format; 95 percent of its broadcast time is devoted to classical music and commentary upon it.  Remaining time is devoted to news commentaries and discussion programs having to do with the fine arts.  No other Indianapolis station boasts such a format or appeals specifically to WAIV's audience.


The buyers propose to convert WAIV into a medium for the area's Negro community.  Eighty percent of its time will be devoted to contemporary popular music, mostly rhythm and blues; the rest will be news and public-affairs programs, with emphasis on topics of special interest to the Negro community, including regular features honoring citizens who have made outstanding contributions to the community, listing equal opportunity employers, and promoting interest in new career fields.  Unlike most metropolitan areas of its size (total  [*176] population is 500,000, of which over 20 percent are nonwhite), Indianapolis has no Negro-oriented station at present.


The president and largest shareholder in the new corporation is himself a leader of the city's Negro community, as is one of the other co-owners.  Both are members of numerous public and private organizations, including the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Community Action Against Poverty, the N.A.A.C.P., and the Urban League.  The fact that Negroes will own and operate the new WAIV provides us with some more assurance than we might otherwise have that its promise to serve the Negro community will be well fulfilled.  (In this regard, it may be worth noting that of the approximately 7,000 radio and television stations in the United States, and the 350 "Negro-oriented" radio stations, all but approximately five are owned by whites.)


In effect, we are being asked to approve a transaction which would deprive Indianapolis of its only "highbrow" radio station, and provide it with its first and only "soul" station -- in this case a station with substantial Negro ownership.  We have decided to permit the requested change to take place.


We have made this complex social decision -- resting ultimately on value judgments -- by deferring to the market.  The transferees think WAIV-FM is worth more as a servant of the Negro community than the transferors think it worth as a servant of aficionados of classical music and criticism.


In this case, we believe, the market's decision is supported by sound considerations of policy.  NBC News, in its courageous and constructive documentary analysis of the Detroit riot, "Summer 1967: What We Learned," ventured its belief that "the greatest single need in America today is for communication between blacks and whites." No instrument -- at least none which is readily at hand -- offers more potential for serving that need than radio.


A recent study showed that all ghetto homes harbor at least one radio receiver and many contain two or more, but that fewer than one in seven receive a daily or even a weekly newspaper.  It, therefore, matters greatly to the residents of the ghetto what kinds of information and entertainment can be obtained by the flick of a radio's dial. Indianapolis, like all other major urban centers in the North, teems with newcomers from the rural South, where the machine has displaced traditional farming methods.  These new citizens have pressing needs which our communications system must serve -- a need to get access to information about their environment; a need to air their views about the problems besetting them as they seek to adjust; and a need, perhaps more important than any other, simply to enjoy a sense of participation, to find in the media of communication through which they relate to the northern metropolis a reflection of their interests, tastes, and values.


A radio station with programming aimed at the Negro community in its coverage area -- if it is properly managed -- can serve these basic needs.  For every metropolitan region, such stations hold out the potential to become invaluable instruments in the struggle to integrate peacefully its white and Negro communities.


 [*177]  The case to the contrary has been made.  It has been urged that "Negro-oriented" stations help to seal off the black community from the rest of society, that they intensify cultural differences between the races, and reduce the occasions when communication is possible.  See, e.g., Berkman, "The Segregated Medium," Columbia Journalism Review, fall 1966, page 29.  However academic the issue may be (some 350 "soul" stations already serve virtually every urban center), it deserves to be addressed.


The Negro-oriented station is unlikely to create a wall of ignorance between the black man and the white world.  It is only one voice -- in an environment where virtually all other stimuli originate in and reflect the white community.  Indeed, the danger may be not that the Negro has too little communication with the white world, but that he has too much -- too much communication which goes in one direction only.  It is a society dominated by such media which produced such novels by Negro authors as "Invisible Man" and "Nobody Knows My Name." Robert Conot, "Rivers of Blood, Years of Darkness," quoted a Watts Negro as saying, after the riots, "You're nobody till someone talks about you!" As countless observers have emphasized, the desperation and outrage shattering the peace of America's summers in the seventh decade of the 20th century is born most of all of a loss of identity, of dignity, of self-confidence.

On balance, the fracturing of radio's audience has been a lucky break for America.  Contrast the case of television.  TV's responsiveness to the needs and interests of the Negro community is dependent almost exclusively on the sense of responsibility of white stations' broadcast owners and managers, and in part on the secondary influences of public pressure and governmental dissatisfaction.  Despite increasing concern on the part of responsible leaders of the broadcast community to date the judgment would [**7] have to be that the pressures of the market have exerted a more beneficial influence on radio's product than have the pressures of conscience upon the product of television.  A glance at the program formats and employment rolls of virtually any television station or network will confirm that assertion.


All this is not to say that there are not dangers involved in segregating, even to some extent, the mass media.  Nor is it to say that Negro-oriented programming, or whatever quality or however related to the objective needs of the Negro community, is a boon to the community.  But the present proposal at least purports to satisfy real needs of its intended audience.  If taken seriously, these promises will produce solid, perhaps measurable, benefits for Indianapolis before the results are in on WAIV's first term of existence in its new role.


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