Paul Porter: Black radio Speaks w/ Forked Tongue



Black Radio Speaks with Fork Tongue

by Paul Porter of

Paul Porter is a 30 year industry vet and former music programmer for Radio One & BET

Paul Porter is a 30 year industry vet and former music programmer for Radio One & BET

It is time that broadcasters start telling the truth. The recent flood of one sided information by radio on the pending “HR 848 – Performance Rights Act” is uncovering a much larger problem. The First Amendment calls for “Freedom of Speech”, but unfortunately broadcasters continue to feed misinformation to millions of Americans, without a murmur of opposing opinion.

Radio One, Founder Cathy Hughes has rediscovered her microphone after a ten year hiatus. While shaping the Performance Rights Act as an end to Black Radio, Hughes and her staff have done a great job of concealing the facts.

In a series of PSA annoucements, Hughes has framed HR 848 as the end of Black radio. Broadcasters, in this difficult economy have not allowed advertising dollars to be spent by denying air time to supporters of this Bill.

In Detroit, on Tuesday, Congressman John Conyers held a hearing on HR 848 at Wayne State University. While Joyner, Baisden and Hughes have continued to deliver blatant lies on air, the forum was the perfect situation to finally hear both sides.

Although invitations were extended to the entire broadcast community, only one representative stepped up to the mic. Rev. Al Sharpton, who’s syndicated Radio One show airs nationwide, presented his side and left without listening to the audience that pays his check.

Sharpton, on his show later that day only mentioned the forum as “one-sided” and failed to mention any of the stories shared by a short list of living legends, Dionne Warwick, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Sam Moore, Duke Fakir, George Clinton and writer performer Rhymefest informed those in attendance of the simple facts on why performers should be paid for radio airplay.

Maybe if Sharpton, Baisden, Hughes or Joyner stop talking they might take the time to listen to some alarming facts.

*Performers are paid in over 30 countries, for radio airplay. Only the U.S., China, Iran and North Korea do not pay performers for radio airplay.

*Performers are paid for television, satellite radio, cable stations and Internet radio but not paid for terrestial (AM & FM) radio airplay.

*An additional $70 to $100 million will be paid to American artists for airplay from foreign countries.

What Black Radio is not telling you:

*Urban radio continues to be the most syndicated music format. While limiting voices and local issues, Black adults are 25 times more likely to hear syndication than Whites. Eliminating the messengers, by limiting the voices.

*Radio One, the nation’s largest African American broadcaster, has cut staff and 401k benefits for staffers, while awarding CEO Alfred Liggins a 10 million dollar bonus.

*Radio consistently makes millions from the recording industry, requiring Free promotions, Free product and Free performances that get charged back to the artist bottom line.

No matter what the color of radio ownership — serving local audiences with better music, information and content is the key to thriving business model. American radio must finally catch up with the rest of the free world and pay performers their just do.

It is time that radio broadcasters allow audiences to hear both sides of this important issue.

Paul Porter

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One of the Most Powerful People in Urban Radio Leaves Her Post


Mary Cathy Sneed retires

One of the Most Powerful People in Urban Radio Leaves Her Post

One of the most powerful and influential people in urban radio has left her post as COO this morning. We’re talking about MC Sneed aka Mary Cathy Sneed of Black owned Radio outlet Radio One.

For the past few years much has been written about this 50 something year old white woman with a country music background who came on board the nation’s largest and most listened to Black owned radio chain and determined what would be played or not played.  Considering that Radio One reaches an estimated 70% of the urban music market,  this woman yielded considerable clout.

At this time, we’re not sure how much things will change in her wake. Aflred Liggins who is son to Radio One owner Kathy Hughes will be filling in…

Here’s how one of the music trades ALL Access reported it..

ALL ACCESS confirms that RADIO ONE COO MARY CATHERINE SNEED has exited the company. While a replacement has yet to be named, CEO ALFRED LIGGINS — son of RADIO ONE Chairman CATHY HUGHES — will assume SNEED’s responsibilities in the interim.

Here’s the memo LIGGINS sent out to the staff:

“We are grateful for MCs contributions and wish her the best in her future endeavors. In her absence I will serve as Interim Chief Operating Officer.

I will be visiting each and every market during the month of July to meet with all of you. This will give everyone a chance to hear directly from me what I think the future holds for our company and all the new initiatives that we are pursuing.

If you have any questions concerning this transition period, please feel free to speak to your General Manager. In the meantime, I trust that I can count on your continued support and effort on behalf of Radio One.”

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How Radio Continues to Dumb Down Blacks in Los Angeles


How Radio Continues to Dumb Down Blacks in Los Angeles

original article-may 05, 2006

One need only to look at the recent booting of John Salley of “The John Salley Block Party” on Radio One’s KKBT-FM (100.3) The Beat and the chosen replacement of Dallas based personality Tom Joyner, to see the crisis in black radio in Los Angeles.

In the nations second largest media market that is home to almost one million blacks, there is only one daily talk show that focuses on issues relevant to blacks in Los Angeles and unless youre up at 4:30 a.m., you miss it. And this is not a plug for the Front Page on KJLH, but it is what it is.

Please tell me that I am not the only black person in Los Angeles to notice the gradual yet progressive downward spiral of black radio into meaningless banter by obsolete personalities who are solely focused on their own lives and use four hours during morning drive time to tell you about it. And if its not the Chatty Kathy personalities then its the celebrity who has a new movie, television show, album, video, ring tone, sneaker, or whatever that just wont shut up.

Then theres the issue of community news, you know news about issues relevant to you and me. Well, thats just about disappeared too. If radio stations read news, its usually Associated Press or City News copy that wasnt written by us and usually doesnt pertain to us. How many black radio news reporters do you know of? Off the top of my head I can only come up with one, Jacquie Stephens.

Lets be clear here. There are only two black owned radio stations in Los Angeles, Stevie Wonders KJLH and Radio Ones KKBT.

KJLH gets a pass simply because they are home to the only daily black talk show in Los Angeles and they actually have a black reporter that goes out into the community to report our news. However, KJLH would do better by moving the Front Page into the Home Teams time slot and vice versa.

Radio Ones KKBT has been a constant disappointment for years. I didnt think they could go much lower after hiring Steve Harvey but then they hired John Salley and made a fool of me. It was a bad move to nix then KKBT personality Dominique DiPrima, but Da Poetess has been trying to hold it down over there for the community.

Consider this. Spanish language radio disc jockeys were the moving force behind the mass numbers of people in attendance at the pro immigration rallies and marches. They told their people where to go, when to be there, what to bring with them, and the people came.

When was the last time John Salley, Big Boy, or Cliff Winston told you to attend a rally in support of an issue that was important to blacks? My point exactly.

Illegal immigration is all everybody is talking about these days, everybody except you know who.

So imagine my own surprise when I found myself tuning in to KFI 640 AM of all stations to get briefed on the latest immigration news. Notoriously known for being Los Angeles conservative talk station, KFI has been the only station in Los Angeles to really address immigration in a language that I can understand, English. And even though I dont always agree with their points of view, I can appreciate a station that is actually willing to at least talk about the issue. It was KFI not a black radio station that first asked blacks how they felt about illegal immigration and had blacks call in to the station to voice their opinions. Go figure?

Someone reading this article is going say, Well, these stations play music. Their focus is not news. That may be true, but if its a black station, we should also be able get our news from them as well. I dont expect KFWB News 980 or KPCC 89.9 FM to do a special broadcast on community news specific to blacks, although it would be nice. I do however expect stations that cater to this community to address the issues that are important to us and provide us with comprehensive news that we can use to educate ourselves.

Who was voted off of American Idol the night before is irrelevant when we are in danger of losing a community like Leimert Park.

Somehow I just dont think a Dallas based radio personality who has no connection to the community is who we need on the airwaves in Los Angeles. Its just a hunch.

# # #

Kennedy Johnson is a black writer who lives somewhere in Los Angeles. Kennedy can be reached at

The State of Black Radio

An instrumental part of the immigrant rights supporters mobilization was the cooperation from Spanish language media. What is black and urban radio doing in Los Angeles to educate and mobilize blacks on the issues? Or should they be educating the community?

Confirmed panelists include radio pioneer Lee Bailey of, KJLH Public Affairs Director Jacquie Stephens, and 100.3 The Beat Community News Director Poetess. Invited guests include Eddie “El Piolin” Sotelo of Radio la Nueva.

Join the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable for a candid discussion on the state of black radio in Los Angeles Saturday, May 6, 2006 at 10 a.m. at the Lucy Florence Coffee House located at 3351 West 43rd Street in Leimert Park. For more information, please call (310) 672-2542.

Saturday, May 6 at 10:00 AM at the Lucy Florence Coffee House.

3351 West 43rd Street in Leimert Park Los Angeles
$5 donation
All Proceeds Benefit the Educational and Community Engagement work of the the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable
501C-3 Non-Profit
information, please call (310) 672-2542 or visit

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Fights Break Out in Lemiert Park Between Black Minute Men & Immigration Activists

Fights Break Out in Lemiert Park Between Black Minute Men & Immigration Activists
by Davey D
daveyd-raider2Yep you read the title right Black Minute Men. Below is an article illustrating the type of bullshit going on in LA that is making this Black-Brown situation spiral out of control. Yesterday cats were in Leimart Park boxing each other over this immigration issue. Ted Hayes a well known homeless activist, showed up with a couple of hundred people including Minute Men to lead an anti-immigrant demonstration. Of course all the media showed up and have been salivating at the jaws for this to happen- Black folks trying to smash on Brown folks in LA.
Fortunately a large number of brothers showed up to counter this thing and let it be known Hayes and his Minute Men aren’t speaking for the Black community. That’s when the fighting broke out. Hayes started leading a chant of ‘Communists Go Home’ while holding a big banner saying Crispus Attucks Brigade.  He also said some thing about we been hear since slavery and therefore have amoral obligation to stop alien invasions. Now these cats are running around planning a big anti-immigration rally for Thursday. The Minute Men themselves haven’t even organized such a protest-just these Negroes.
In addition to all that the Clear Channel station that ran the ‘Kill Tookie Hour’ are now doing a big promotion called ‘Weening Yourself Off Illegal Aliens“. They dedicate an hour a day to people calling on clowning Mexicans complete with spliced speeches and people using fake accents. Of course Ted Hayes and company are now heroes to the same station that regularly clowns the homeless and Black people in general. What people won’t do for some fame and glory.
Meanwhile Black owned but white run Radio One have barely touched this issue here in LA preferring to stick with their policy of only dealing with Black folks and not the Latino community which makes up 40% of Southern Cali. At least KJLH owned by Stevie Wonder has been on it.  Props to Yo-Yo who has been hitting this hard and doing her best to make sure bridges are being built and that people like Hayes don’t cast a wide shadow over all of us… She’s planning a big Cinco de Mayo event and trying bring a lot of artists out to show support. Also Brother J of X-Clan and Fidel Rodriguez of Divine Forces Radio [KPFK] and also Julio G of KDAY have been out there repping hard. Also tens of thousands took to the streets in San Francisco last night. Large numbers of Asian/Filipinos in particular came out.
Thank God Fred Hampton Jr. and Immortal Technique stayed in LA for a full week and toured the place and saw for themselves what’s really going on and all the power dynamics that are at work. Thank God they’ve been  aggressively speaking out on this and calling people out for their faulty analysis. As Technique pointed out ‘Juan who is selling oranges on the freeway is not taking away jobs from nobody. Look to the government shifting jobs overseas’. The hi-tech computer jobs in Silicon Valley are being out-sourced to India while other big corporations are applying for guest worker passes claiming that US worker are too dumb to work many of the jobs we as Black folks are blaming Latinos for taking. 
As Chairman Fred pointed out, Black folks should not be playing the role of Buffalo soldiers for white power interests who are obviously enjoying the shenanigans of having Black folks run around sounding off worse than any Klansman.
The perceptions and misinformation floating around LA is crazy. Case in point. I attended a meeting last week with Black and Brown press folks. Many of the Latino media folks were wondering why the silence with Black stations like KKBT.. They were shocked to know that while Black owned it’s white run from top to bottom and that the day to day silence is the call of the PD and GM. That revelation helped clarify things immensely.
I’m encouraging folks to peep the Fred Hampton Jr. interview if you haven’t already. Also be on the look out because a lot of Spanish speaking rappers are getting together to record a song about this issue..
Where’s P-Diddy and HSAN on this issue? Did they address this over the weekend during the Summit? I heard Russell speaking on Sudan.
Call your Congressman and call your local rapper and let them know how you feel about this issue.

52 Year Old ‘MC’ Sneed Is the Most Powerful Force in Hip Hop Radio

Hip-Hop’s Unlikely Voice At 52, Shaping the Playlist for a Young Audience

Mary Catherine Sneed aka MC Sneed

Mary Catherine Sneed aka MC Sneed

LOS ANGELES — Mary J. Blige, in thigh-high green stiletto boots, grinds her hips on stage at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. “Got a jones in my bones,” she sings over the band’s jumpy hip-hop beat. “And it’s all for you, babe. Can’t leave you alone.”

Six thousand young people are on their feet bouncing and pumping their fists. Twenty rows back, between two young black women, sits a redhead named Mary Catherine Sneed, an Alabama native raised on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. She sways and nods demurely as the two teenage girls in front of her shake it. Later, after the lights come up, while she waits for the crowd to file out, Sneed turns to her assistant: “She was great. Every song is like a chapter in the life of Mary J. Blige.”

Few in this crowd know how much this 52-year-old white woman’s opinion matters: She controls what many of them hear when they turn on their radios.

As chief operating officer of Radio One Inc., a black-owned company based in suburban Prince George’s County, Md., Sneed is one of the most powerful people in black radio. The company owns a fifth of the black stations in the country. Sneed, who likes to be called “M.C.,” helps oversee the business side, supervising station managers, and the music side, supervising the program directors who decide what goes on the air. In most radio companies, those are separate jobs.

Most weeks she leaves home in Atlanta for one of the two dozen cities where Radio One owns 67 stations. This week in December is her L.A. week, and Sue Freund, general manager of KKBT-FM (“The Beat”), Radio One’s local hip-hop station, is driving a steel-gray Land Rover through the office canyons of Wilshire Boulevard on the way to lunch. From the backseat, Sneed chats with the Beat’s program director, Robert Scorpio, who decides, with advice from Sneed, what music to play.

She was not a fan of the first two singles — “Flying Without Wings” and “Superstar” — from Ruben Studdard, the black man who won the amateur-hour TV show “American Idol.” The whiter network audience may have loved Studdard, but Sneed said his slow, crooning rhythm and blues singles are too mainstream for the station.

“I think they were trying to be mass appeal, but by being mass appeal they appealed to no one,” she said. {grv}{grv}Those songs weren’t urban enough.” {grv}{grv}Urban” in the radio business means {grv}{grv}black.” The rest of the album, she said, is a better fit.

Scorpio agrees. A 39-year-old white hip-hop fan, he is a veteran of black radio who was a morning DJ in Houston before leaving the air to program seven years ago.

After talking to Sneed, he adds Studdard’s latest single, “Sorry 2004,” with its more driving hip-hop beat, to the playlist. It becomes a hit. Sneed “definitely gets the whole urban vibe,” he said later. “Not a lot of corporate people do.”

Radio One’s L.A. Story

The Los Angeles station, Radio One’s first in the nation’s entertainment capital, is especially important to the company. Radio One bought it three years ago from Clear Channel Communications Inc., the country’s largest radio company. Federal competition regulations forced Clear Channel to shed the Beat after buying Dallas-based AMFM Inc. for $23 billion. Radio One’s strategy is to buy struggling stations cheap and turn them around.

Sneed forced out the old general manager but kept on Ed Lover and Dr. Dre of the TV show “Yo! MTV Raps” for the morning show. They flopped. She replaced them with Steve Harvey, a black comedian and TV personality popular with black audiences. The ratings jumped.

Although Radio One is doing better than the industry as a whole during a nationwide advertising slump, last winter a drop in the ratings at the Beat and a few other Radio One stations began to worry investors. The company has run up debt, spending $1.6 billion recently buying radio stations, and needs a steady revenue stream to repay it. The stock price began to drop from $16 a share to $13 last summer. It closed Friday at $19.48 a share.

Sneed then fired the production director and afternoon DJ. She spent three weeks running the station when the new general manager took maternity leave during the summer. Arbitron Inc., which measures radio and TV audiences, is to release the latest ratings while she is in Los Angeles.

From Country to Hip-Hop

Sneed grew up in Huntsville, Ala., where she went to an integrated high school in the 1960s and then across the state to Auburn University. She joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority to fit in at school, but rarely showed up for meetings. When the sisters had to nominate someone to volunteer at the campus radio station, they picked Sneed. They thought it was punishment. She thought it was destiny.

“I went to the [radio station] meeting, and I was really over the sorority,” she said.

Through the 1970s and 1980s, she programmed country music stations in Nashville and R&B, adult contemporary, pop and rock stations in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Then Summit Communications Corp., a small Atlanta-based radio chain, hired her as executive vice president, the second-highest executive in the company, which operated adult contemporary stations playing soft-rockers such as Phil Collins and Celine Dion.

“It was a big job to be a woman and vice president,” Sneed said. “There just weren’t girls in radio programming. It is still a position that is dominated by men.”

At the same time, another woman was making her mark on radio. Cathy Hughes developed the “quiet storm” format — heavy on slow, sensual rhythm and blues sung by soulful crooners like Luther Vandross — at predominantly black Howard University’s station in Washington. In 1980 she bought her own station, WOL-AM, for just under $1 million.

Now chairman of Radio One, Hughes made her son, Alfred C. Liggins III, chief executive. Liggins found Sneed in Atlanta in 1994 when he went to buy an Atlanta radio station from Summit.

Later that year Summit sold all its stations and Sneed, a separated single mother of one son, was looking for a job that would let her remain in Atlanta. Liggins wanted to expand Radio One beyond Washington and Baltimore. They started what was only the second all-rap radio station in a major market in the nation; the first was in New York. Sneed had never programmed a rap station before.

Radio One began to grow just as white teenagers began mimicking West Coast rappers by throwing gang signs, wearing ultra-baggy jeans and cranking the music up to parent-deafening levels. Today hip-hop and R&B — “urban music” — are among the most popular formats with listeners ages 12 to 34, according to Arbitron. Nationwide, 348 stations play urban formats and in many large cities they compete directly with about 600 pop stations that play Top 40 hits, since Top 40 is no longer overwhelmingly white: Many Top 40 hits these days are rap songs. Recently eight of the top 10 singles in Billboard magazine were by rappers, including Outkast, Ludacris, Chingy and Jay-Z.

The gansta rap genre of hip-hop and rough images perpetrated by some rappers is part of what has become a billion-dollar industry that markets music, clothes and movies to young people of all races. From its roots as an urban black music form, rap has become an integral part of mainstream culture and is used to promote such products as Coca-Cola and Old Navy sweatshirts.

The fact that Sneed is white and has a 23-year-old son may have helped her get a feel for young people. The company said it gives local programmers lots of leeway, but every two weeks she has a conference call with program directors telling them which rappers flopped at the Source Awards in Miami and which songs record labels are plugging. To stay plugged in, she goes to concerts and clubs.

“Realistically speaking, you don’t see that many white women in the ‘hood,” said Chris Bridges, a best-selling rapper who uses the name Ludacris and who was once a DJ at Radio One’s Atlanta hip-hop station. “She would come to clubs and events right in the ghetto. That says a lot for the chief operating officer of the company.”

Last year, the company earned $7 million on revenue of $336 million after losing $55 million on $277 million in revenue because of the billion-dollar station-buying spree in 2000 that vaulted the company into the big leagues. Liggins took the company public in 1999.

But everywhere it looks, Radio One is surrounded by giants more than twice its size. Its toughest competition in Washington is WPGC-FM (95.5), owned by New York-based Infinity Broadcasting Corp., a unit of Viacom Inc. that owns 185 stations. Radio One’s R&B station, WMMJ-FM (102.3) and WPGC battle for the top market share. The Infinity station is slightly ahead.

Rebuking Critics

Soon the Land Rover is parked and Sneed is eating a chicken Ceasar salad at a Marie Callender’s, a middle-market chain restaurant heavy on comfort food. She tells Freund and Scorpio a story about conservative TV pundit Bill O’Reilly berating white rapper Eminem for advocating the assassination of the president. “In hip-hop, ‘dead presidents’ means money,” she said, throwing up her hands. “He just didn’t get it. Come on, people!”

It is not just middle-age white conservatives who dislike the music. Lots of parents worry about songs celebrating guns and violence or demeaning women. And some rappers are not exactly role models. Unlike easy-listening stars, rappers tend to walk it like they talk it, and some have been shot and killed. Then there is the rabid consumerism, obsessed with “bling-bling” — jewelry — and expensive cars and clothes. Some rappers talk about the rough neighborhoods where they grew up while others offer views on subjects as diverse as politics to partying.

Sneed blows off the critics. “Until they listen and can have a conversation that lets me know that they actually spent some time monitoring what we are playing, we have nothing to talk about.”

Late that night, Sneed’s driver drops her and her 29-year old assistant for a meeting at Mr. Chow, an intimate celebrity hangout in Beverly Hills. Sneed steps out of the black Cadillac Escalade and is soon joking with a Geffen Records executive and his three assistants over champagne and lobster, chicken satay and shrimp dumplings. The conversation turns serious for a moment when the background music changes. The Geffen executive has secretly asked the restaurant manager to play young R&B singer Avant’s new record so he could pitch it to Sneed.

“Sounds good,” she said, but makes no promises.

As dinner progresses, there are lots of stories about hip-hop artists — who is the hardest-to-work-with diva; who is known to carry a gun. “If you ever see that guy,” the Geffen executive said, “you know he’s packing an arsenal.” Sneed laughs.

Then it is morning again in Los Angeles, in a conference room at the Beat offices on Wilshire, and the station manager and sales team gather around printouts of the latest Arbitron figures. The station manager passes a sheet to Sneed: The previous month the Beat ranked third in the market for the 18- to 34-year-old age group. It grabbed a respectable 3.3 rating, meaning that during any continuous 15-minute period 3.3 percent of Los Angeles listeners, or 343,000 people, were tuned in. The station gained ground on its competitor, an Infinity station, which leads the Beat but lost market share.

“Oh, God! OH MY GOD!” Sneed yelps. “That’s freaking awesome!”

By Krissah Williams…Jan11.html


This was an important article which shed light on one of the most powerful people controlling the flow of Black music to the masses.. A week after this article came out Lisa Fager from Industryears, a watchdog group based in DC, shot off this response to the article..

Hip-Hop and Unheard Voices

Lisa Fager of Industryears breaks down many of the arguments put forth by Cathy Hughes of Radio One. Personally i am in opposition to her support of HR 848 and will hit this in a future column

In the Jan. 12 front-page article “Hip Hop’s Unlikely Voice,” Krissah Williams did a great job of painting the picture at Radio One Inc., in essence summarizing the bigger issue in the hip-hop industry — the exploitation by mostly non-blacks working both sides of the industry, radio and record labels.…D=53.topic

Mary Catherine Sneed is a typical urban music executive: She launched the second hip-hop radio format in the country with no experience or connection to the genre or its typical listeners. Now she determines what music black kids hear with confirmation from her white program director.

Gangsta rap is not the reflection of the black community but of white music industry executives. Unfortunately we can’t even count on the black-owned radio stations to save black children from demeaning stereotypes, because stations have consolidated and work from regional playlists, and program directors no longer have the power to localize and choose music. Record companies direct radio stations on which singles to play.

Before this consolidation, program and music directors made these decisions. Now radio execs such as Ms. Sneed have the power to see that songs with offensive lyrics get daily double-digit spins, while other songs without offensive lyrics receive no airplay.

Where’s the balance?



The writer is a marketing consultant who has worked for radio and television networks and record labels.