Battle For The Airwaves - Page 6 of 7

Battle For The Airwaves

he says. “Everyone in my company can multitask. We can’t afford as many specialists.”

The Cherry brothers are equally focused on ratings and revenues. And their tenacity shows. For instance, they launched WHJX-FM in Jacksonville in April 2002 and now it’s the city’s No. 3 urban-focused station. Producing total revenues of $2 million in 2002, they expect to grow Tama’s sales by 6% over the next year with their eclectic offerings.

Other black operators believe they can expand sales through their community appeal. Steve Hegwood, a former vice president at Radio One who now owns On Top Communications, operates five stations in Albany, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi, (two stations); Norfolk, Virginia; and New Orleans, with that thinking in mind. “I impress upon our GMs [general managers], program directors, and promotion directors to be involved in community activities,” he says. “Our goal is to create an emotional bond with our audience. We are [currently] launching an AIDS education effort. That’s why we’re here … to serve our audience.”

And that’s why Hegwood shrugs at the notion that deregulation will force him to place his outlets on the auction block. “Yes, the big companies have acquired most of the best assets in each major market, and it does make it difficult for an entrepreneur like myself to enter markets and acquire additional properties,” he says. “But we have learned that there are people who will sell to independents. I can’t take the position that I need a handout. I instill in my staff that you just have to put together your best effort on sales, operations, and programming.”

The originator of the urban contemporary radio format 30 years ago, Inner City Broadcasting Corp. (No. 58 on the 2002 BE INDUSTRIAL/ SERVICE 100 list with gross sales of $59 million) has a comprehensive approach that includes the development of quality programming and being shark’s-skin-close to their audience. “We believe we understand our audience better than some [mega] broadcasters,” says President and Chief Operating Officer Charles Warfield. “They may have big budgets and marketing dollars, but at the end of the day, you have to target what is important to the community. We live in [and] circulate within the community, and we’re talking to our audiences every day. We believe that this gives us an advantage.” Inner City reaches urban communities nationwide, operating 17 stations in seven markets, including New York, Mississippi, and South Carolina. (Inner City received capital from the Black Enterprise/Greenwich Street Fund, which now has an ownership stake in the firm.)

Access One Communications is capitalizing on what its management views as the advantageous aspects of deregulation, as well as the grassroots appeal of community radio. The company owns and operates 10 radio stations in Shreveport, Louisiana, Marshall, Texas and New York City; the Super Radio Networks programming syndication company, which produces and distributes 35 radio programs; and 49% of the American Urban Radio Networks, a news and information programming network that serves over 400 radio affiliates nationally.

Deregulation paved the way for Access One