Black Talk Radio Weekly Newsletter - Oct 1, 2017

Hello, Friends of Black Talk Radio,

This is the first of the weekly newsletters that we will be sending out to our donors and media partners. This week we will be taking a look at a couple of reports concerning digital radio and podcasting from Nielsen. Nielsen Holdings PLC is a global information, data, and measurement company with headquarters in the U.K. One of the report deals specifically with the growth Black & Hispanic radio consumers. The reports confirm trends in the radio industry predicted by Scotty Reid, found of the Black Talk Media Project back in 2008 when he identified digital radio as the most viable option for re-establishing community-based radio after the devasting impact of the 1996 Telecommunications Act on terrestrial Black radio ownership.


A low-power FM radio station broadcasting from a trailer in Houston, Texas.

Back in 2008, when Black Talk Media Project was first launched, founder Scotty Reid started researching different forms of radio to determine which avenue would be the best route to pursue. After examining Low Power FM terrestrial radio technology, he discovered that there was simply too much red tape involved in obtaining broadcast licensing which required federal government approval. There were also limitations on the reach of LPFM as with all terrestrial which is limited by the reach of their antenna. Typically LPFM has a broadcast radius of 5 miles. The reach of terrestrial radio can be further limited by surrounding terrain. Lastly, it was simply too expensive equipment wise and the fees related to federal applications and engineering designs.


Smartphones, Digital Radio Boxes and Digital Television All Stream Internet Radio Streams.

The other option to re-establishing community based Black radio was digital radio streaming using internet based radio technology. Black Talk Media Project founder Scotty Reid was first exposed to internet-based digital radio when he happened upon the Blog Talk Radio platform in 2007 and became one of the most prolific broadcasters on that platform as well as one of its more popular hosts. Excited about the potential of the technology, he set about recruiting other people to the platform. Over the years he became involved in producing several different programs. However, the time on Blog Talk Radio would come to a halt when Black Talk Radio was launched as a collective program with other Black radio hosts. However, some on the platform found the name "Black Talk Radio" to be offensive and Blog Talk Radio spended the program for a week which turn out to be only 3 days after a backlash from listeners.


SHOUTcast DNAS is cross-platform proprietary software for streaming media over the Internet. The software, developed by Nullsoft, is available free of charge.

Needless to say, it was not a good feeling knowing that you could have your radio program shut down in such a reactionary manner because of anti-Blackness on a predominately "white" platform. This led Scotty Reid to investigate the underlying technology that Blog Talk Radio was using which led to the discovery of Shoutcast internet radio technology. Because of a lack of financial resources to hire developers, through experimentation, the Black Talk Media Project was able to harness the power of digital radio using low-cost equipment and software. Black Talk Radio Network would soon be launched in November of 2008 as a platform for Black digital radio hosts, especially those who were being mistreated and having their voices suppressed on other platforms. The Black Talk Media Project began to produce tutorials, videos and provided one on one training free of charge. Because of the affordability of the technology and data that showed that most Black people in the United States accessed the Internet via smartphones, we identified that internet-based digital radio was the way to go for the Black community as a collective.



This brings us to latest data involving digital radio and the Black community. Nielsen, the data collection company, recently published an article titled "The Growing Reach Of Radio Among U.S. Ethnic Audiences".

One the key points besides the continued growth of Black radio, the article states, "As a medium, radio is well established as having the greatest reach across the U.S. It’s also clear that despite the increasing influence of digital mediums, traditional radio continues to attract young listeners who grew up fully connected with digital media. But there’s another side to the national radio growth story: The African-American and Hispanic listening audience now accounts for one-third of the listening audience, and that number continues to grow.".

However, one downside to this trend is that when it comes to terrestrial radio stations, there are fewer black stations across the nation and most of the radio targeted towards Black people, is not controlled by Black people. Then there is the question of content. Most of the popular "black radio" heard over terrestrial stations is entertainment based and not information based. Most of the "popular" hosts, are either comedians or don't know enough about politics to have serious discussions and most have only sought to be gatekeepers in keeping Black people aligned with the Democratic Party instead of fostering an independent-minded bloc of Black voters. Black radio on terrestrial radio stations are not community-based and only offer a few syndicated programs. Therefore, Black people listening to terrestrial radio have severely limited choices.

Digital Radio Streaming Leads New Growth

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However, the article, which looks at data for several years, again confirms the correct decision of the Black Talk Media Project to focus on the Internet-based digital radio to reach Black people with grassroots voices.

"It’s also worth noting that radio reaches a significant portion of both black and Hispanic consumers, at 93% and 98%, respectively. The reach among Hispanics is particularly high, as it far exceeds the overall national average of 93%.

But ethnic consumers aren’t limiting their consumption to their homes and cars. In fact, black and Hispanic consumers are driving significant gains in audio streaming via smartphone, which is up 30% among black consumers over the past year and up 29% among Hispanics."


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While the article we have been discussing is dealing specifically with terrestrial and Internet-based digital radio, podcasts ( pre-recorded digital audio files) are also driving up Black media consumption online. Recently, the Black Talk Media Project through the platform Black Talk Radio Network has launched a new podcast hosting and distribution service.


Challenges Remain For Grassroots Black Radio

While Internet-based radio is more cost effective than investing in terrestrial radio stations, it still costs money to run media operation and as the audience grows so does the cost. However, after the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act which allowed big corporations to buy or launch more stations in any given market, put them in direct competition with black owned radio stations for advertisement dollars. This directly led to black radio stations having to turn off their signals and close their doors.

The same challenges exist in the digital radio medium but especially when that medium is considered "too black, too strong" as Malcolm X spoke about in reference to grassroots movements and the tendency to make them weak. As long as you are laughing and joking and talking about celebrities and dating, then you maybe able to find some advertisers. There are also ethical decisions to be made when accepting advertising dollars that are promoting non-ethical products or businesses that have engaged in racist practices.

As an example, a marketer with Wells Fargo, a bank that invests in private prisons, reached out to Black Talk Radio to arrange interviews with bank executives in the home mortgage market. If we had agreed to promote them and their campaign to market mortgages to Black people, then it is likely advertising dollars would have followed but of course, the decision was made to decline the offer. It seems that if radical black radio is to survive, stations will have to rely more on the those who listen to help fund media operations.


The future of internet radio and podcasting looks like it will continue this upward trend and while it can present some economic opportunity, more importantly, it remains the best option for Black people to control their own voices and foster real discussion around issues outside of the corporate media stream.

Kind regards,
Team Black Talk Media Project

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