First Black-Owned TV Station Opened 38 Years Ago Today In Detroit
On Sept. 29, 1975, the United States’ first Black-owned television station signed on for the first time. Historical Detroit station WGPR-TV 62 is celebrating its 38th anniversary this week.
According to Michigan Advance, the monumental moment came just a few years after the Federal Communications Commission decided to permit African Americans to operate their own television station in Detroit.
Vice President of WGPR-TV 62 programming told the Ann Arbor Sun in 1975 that it wouldn’t have been such a big ordeal if American society was more accepting of Black people in television.
George White said, “There wouldn’t be any need for a station of this type if things were running as a democratic society should be run. The problem with the general media, which refers to TV stations too, is that they haven’t considered us important enough. Therein lies the need.”
The WGPR-TV 62 station marked an essential step in the industry as the station worked in avenues of advocacy, providing previously unattainable employment opportunities and job-specific training for African Americans in the industry. The news station bolstered the Black economy in production, broadcast journalism, sales, and entertainment. With an all-Black evening news broadcast, Amyre Porter, Doug Morrison, and Sharon Crews were hailed as the United States’ first Black prime-time news team.
Former Republican President Gerald Ford, originally from Grand Rapids, congratulated WGPR-TV’s owner, William Banks. Ford’s pre-recorded message aired on the station’s first broadcast in 1975.
He said, “Congratulations to WGPR-TV and the men and women who helped to make it a reality. I’m particularly proud that this first Black-owned television station in the continental U.S. will be in my home state of Michigan. … Most importantly, WGPR will serve as a symbol of successful Black enterprise. This is truly a landmark, not only for the broadcasting industry but for American society. I want to see more of this kind of progress.”
Banks’ organization eventually sold WGPR-TV 62 to the CBS Television Network Inc. for reportedly $24 million. The Michigan Historical Commission raised a city marker at the original station’s headquarters in 2016, and the very next year, the William V. Banks Broadcast Museum opened on Jan. 16.