By Lynda L. Jones
A community gathering was held on Monday, March 11 at the Brotherhood of Firefighters Hall at 7717 W. Good Hope.
The event served as an appreciation tribute for members of the WMCS 1290 radio staff affected by the station’s sudden format change. This was also an opportunity for the community to ask what is next? And what can be done to prevent this from happening in the future.
Questions were addressed to a panel that included; Dr. Patricia McManus, executive director of the Black Health Coalition, Homer Blow, of WNOV 860 Radio and Blow- Radio.com, and Brother William Muhammad, of Muhammad Mosque # 3.
Each panelist made an opening statement responding to the question, ‘What did you think of the sudden format change that 1290 made?’
Dr. McManus stated that the Black community must stop always looking outside of itself for solutions to problems. The solutions are within the community, and there are a lot of issues to sort out, but it can be done. She also pointed out that Black individuals who sit in key positions of influence at corporations need to be honest with the community. “If you sit in a key position and your hands are tied, and you just need to keep your job and are limited, be honest and say so.”
Brother Muhammad gave the perspective of where this entire attack on Black and independent radio ownership came from. He referenced the change in the FCC laws that were changed in 1996 that allowed corporations to own many radio outlets and changes in syndication, where there were limitations to this type of ownership before.
The problem with this change hurt independent radio station owners, and especially Black owned radio stations. Muhammad says that he believes that the result of the tremendous turnout and participation of the ‘Million Man March’ helped lead to this change. He says that it was Black radio that was very instrumental in creating the successful march, and that this was quite unsettling for the powers that be. The changes did take place soon after the march.
By the time Homer Blow was slated to speak, a question from the audience was on the table. An audience member stated that she was not aware that WMCS 1290 was in financial trouble and that Willie Davis had to sell shares. She stated, “If I knew that I would have bought some shares or sent in money, but we didn’t know. No one told us.”
Homer responded by stating that the community should have known, and he even shared his own experience when WNOV 860 was sold in 2008. “People don’t sell businesses if the business is thriving. If you have a business and you are making a profit you rarely sell. We need to pay attention to what is going on around us.”
Homer also shared that when the station was sold, he began his own Internet radio station Blowradio.com. He also said that another thing that contributes to African Americans losing businesses is the lack of unity, and people not wanting to work with each other over silly things. “People create clicks, and they get personal and don’t want to work with this person for whatever personal reason that they conjure up. We must get beyond that kind of thinking, because we all lose.”
He also announced during the event that in addition to Blowradio.com he is also back at WNOV 860 and the station is back under the ownership of Jerrel Jones, and it is the only 100 percent Black owned radio station in Milwaukee. And if the community wants it to remain, you are going to have to financially support it.
Ernie Gee, who was recently affected by the 1290 change stated that he understood that the format change was a business decision. He shared that there was short notice on what happened, and that he understood that is the nature of business. In this type of business transition, there is no times for “goodbyes” or “thank you’s”. He thanked the community for the appreciation tribute, and then he announced what is happening next for him.
“I was out of work for about six hours, and I received a call from my former boss, Mr. Jerrel Jones, and he said, “Are you ready to come back home?” I yelled back, Yes! And I will be back at WNOV 860 the first week of April.” Gee said.
To further demonstrate how much of life is a cycle, and as the saying goes, ‘What goes around, comes around’, Blow had given appreciation toward the 1290 staff, and he also shared that Ernie Gee had given him his start in radio 22 years ago at WNOV. Ernie pointed out in his announcement that Homer will now be his boss at WNOV.
In final remarks, Dr. McManus asked that the community be informed of what amount of money does it take to operate a successful radio station. And individuals from the audience suggested hosting some fundraisers for WNOV to keep it on. Homer responded, “You know, you can donate to the radio station. Nothing is stopping you from doing that.”