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Two cents worth! Black radio seeks inclusion; more audio advertising dollars

“That’s my two cents worth” is a well-used, familiar saying with most people never knowing its’ origin.

It is taken from the original English idiom “to put in my two-penny worth.”

Back in the 17th century, two cents was the cost of postage. Letters were the way most people communicated their words, thoughts, or feelings.

People believed when they were able to have their say and sincerely expressed themselves, they were getting their money’s or their “two cents worth.”

2023 is the 75th anniversary of Black Radio. 2023 is also the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop.

Black radio stations were the first radio to play Hip Hop. Nearly all Black-owned radio stations feature Black Radio formats.

Yet, despite incredible and groundbreaking achievements, plus large, loyal audience reach, Black-owned radio, on average, receives only two percent of every radio advertising dollar.

In other words, two-cents worth.

Howard Robertson, president and  CEO of the Spotset Radio Network and Ode Audio, was literally raised on Black radio. He grew up not just listening but living through the influence and inspiration America’s first Black format radio station, WDIA-AM 1070.

“Black radio began broadcasting Black music and news to Black listeners, using Black on air talent on June 7, 1947,” Robertson explained. “I began life on June 7, 1952, exactly five years later, also in Memphis.”

Black Radio was like an ever-present big brother in terms of information and exposure. Yet, Robertson wasn’t the only one moved and motivated by Black Radio.

One of Black Radio’s biggest fans was a young white kid with a funny name, Elvis.

Ironically, Elvis and Howard would frequently make small talk at night at the same stoplight while one was on the way home from work and the other was riding a pretty girl on his motorcycle.

Elvis was a voracious WDIA listener. Before B.B. King was King of the Blues and Rufus Thomas did the “Funky Chicken,” they were radio announcers that Elvis listened to daily.

Black Radio is how Rock & Roll happened. The first Rock & Roll song ever recorded (according to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) was “Rocket 88” by Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm.

But the song became No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart because Rock & Roll didn’t exist and white radio stations played only a handful of Black artists.

While white radio stations in America didn’t play many Black artists, those in Europe certainly did.

Just like Elvis was listening to Black radio in the States, young white kids in Europe like Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were trying to imitate Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and other Black Blues giants.

In the meantime, Black radio was busy introducing the world to  James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Rev. C.L. Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Mahalia Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, The Temptations and others.

They also were super-serving and saturating Black communities across America with vital information, insight as well as entertainment, especially during the Civil Rights movement.

This is how and why Black radio has been a trusted voice across America with more than four generations of devoted listeners.

That said, it is completely curious why major radio advertisers on average spend only two cents of every local radio dollar on Black-owned radio stations.

Jim Winston: “… only two cents of local radio dollars going to Black-owned radio stations is disrespectful and insulting.” (Courtesy photo)

Jim Winston has led the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) as CEO for 40 years and has long advocated for equity for Black-owned media.

“Black radio grew and evolved out of exclusion,” Winston said. “Inequity and exclusion have continuously plagued our NABOB members.

“But while somehow our stations have managed to survive, only two cents of local radio dollars going to Black-owned radio stations is disrespectful and insulting.”

In the early 2000s, the Spotset Radio and NABOB formed the Spotset/NABOB Radio Network, a one-of-a-kind advertising network of more than 100 Black and independently-owned radio stations in small, medium and large sized markets across America.

To commemorate Black Radio’s 75th anniversary, the Spotset/NABOB network expects to drive at least $75 million in new ad revenues to a 75-station network of stations.

“Commitment is greater than investment,” explained Howard Robertson. “Black radio is making commitments to agencies and brands, and we’d like them to reciprocate by committing dollars to Black radio stations.”

Seventy-five million dollars may sound like a lot, however $75M represents only 2 percent of revenues spent with just one audio company back in 2021, a down year.

Black radio seeks to get its two cents worth in its’ 75th year.

“If not us, who,” asked Winston.

“If not now, when,” added Robertson.

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