ACTION ALERT: S.O.S. Save Inner City Broadcasting and WBLS From Bankruptcy Mess!

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

I hope I have sufficiently shocked you to attention, because there is a disaster brewing right under our noses, right in the Black family community, that has been flying low under the radar.

As a matter of fact, I and others would probably not have become aware of it had it not been announced at Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Push 15th Anniversary Wall Street Initiative, during a panel discussion on the disappearing Black media.

Talk about a shock!
When James L. Winston, Executive Director and General Counsel for NABOB (National Black Owned Broadcasters), an organization of Black TV and Radio station owners, made the announcement that the venerable Inner City Broadcast Company (or System), founded by the late, great Percy Ellis Sutton, had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy* in the courts, for indebtedness of over $180 million, it was though as though everyone in the room suddenly had been punched in the stomach.

And while the discussion went on to deal with other problems in the Black media, the 800 pound gorilla in the room was: "What are we going to do if we lose the only Black owned radio station in New York City? What happens if it falls into white hands? What happens to the Black voice of New York?"

Ken Smickle founder and CEO of Target Market News (www.targetmarketnews.com), summed it up rather succinctly: "We, as Black people, have to wake up. We have to respond in our own best interest. We are losing Black media. When we lose Black media, we're losing Black life as we know it! We're losing political, social power and economic power. We are losing the ability to be seen. When WBLS is no longer available in this town, every white person (as well as our own Black brothers and sisters worldwide) is going to think a litte (a whole lot) less of us. Every single one of you will be affected, not just them {the Sutton family} - oh, no,no,no,no,no! It's not just them; not that it "didn't work out!" or that "they did this; they didn't do that right..." No! It's like, "there they go!" They is YOU, US!!! So it is time to act like 20th Century African Americans who know something about survival!!"

Per NABOB's James Winston, the genesis of the problem stems from 11 radio stations purchased by Pierre Sutton ten years ago for $200 million. With the current economic downturn, and the fact that Newt Gingrich, during the Bush Administration, had caused the tax incentives to be overturned, which would have made the purchases profitable, the stations became losing propositions for Inner City. Couple that with the fact that we're losing a great many of our Black Newspapers and TV stations across the nation.

As Rev. Jesse Jackson stated, the >Black media is under siege.

When asked what could be done to save the stations, particularly New York's own WLIB and WBLS, audience members suggested they contact Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, Don King and others who were more likely to have the financial wherewithal to help save the properties, as well as keep it in Black hands.

Others also strongly recommended that there be a change in management, once the stations were rescued, in order to avoid future problems, or the recurrence of perennial problems (don't exactly know what that means).

Producer, writer and entertainer, Verinia Taylor stated, angrily, "This is a Black Icon in the community, how could he (Pierre Sutton) not inform the Black community that ICBC was having this problem. We could have had fundraisers, or lobby some of America's wealthy African American millionaires to correct this problem. Now the organization that Black people had a voice is now threatened by white racist media (ClearView, which is owned by Mitt Romney) Now you put him in a position to take out the voice we have in ICBC. To the current management don't let false pride allow you to lose our most valuable asset! See what ViaCom did to BET!"

When further queried about why we were just learning about the situation, Winston further stated, "the owners did not reach out to the Black community," the audience vociferously responded that it was just such a situation that has caused so many Black families to lose homes and businesses. There appears to be a disconnect between them and the community - something that has to be remedied.

Others recommended that they jettison the recently purchased stations and just focus on the flagship stations of WBLS and WLIB. "If we lose them, all that Mr. Sutton worked and sacrificed for for the Black community will have gone for nothing."

So while you're finger popping, listening to your latest rap, R&B artist, or the latest information about the Black community, think about how you'll feel if you no longer have WLIB or WBLS. What kind of schmucks will we be to sit idly by and allow our institutions to be cannibalized before us. We've got a lot to do with the way this plays out, and we'd better be about it.

Anyone who is interested in assisting Inner City Broadcasting, or who may have a solution to the situation, can reach out to Mr. James Winston, President, NABOB jwinston@nabob.org. We must all pull together as the Black Family Community that we are.

*FYI: Chapter 11 bankruptcy is intended primarily for the reorganization of businesses with heavy debt burdens, most often associated with corporations. Chapter 11 allows the debtor to propose a plan for profitability post-bankruptcy, which may include trimming costs and seeking new sources of revenue or income, while temporarily holding creditors at bay. While Chapter 11 provides more time to file a plan and the opportunity to reorganize, it is more time-consuming and costly than other forms of bankruptcy. In the Chapter 11 Process either the debtor or its creditors may file a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Once the petition is filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the case begins and an automatic stay of all collections actions is put into effect. This means creditors may not pursue existing or new collection activities for unpaid debts unless the court issues a modification to the stay. This provides an opportunity for the debtor to draft a reorganization plan and negotiate more feasible repayment terms without worrying about its debt obligations. After the petition is filed, the business continues about its affairs without interruption. Meanwhile, under the supervision of the bankruptcy court, the debtor turns its attention to figuring out a repayment plan for its creditors. Repayment amounts typically are much lower than the original debt totals. Throughout the case, the debtor may review its creditors' claims and make objections where it makes sense. Monthly operating reports filed by the debtor keep the court apprised of its progress. - www.Findlaw.com

During the recently held Wall Street Project conference, Rev. Jesse Jackson continually commented on the demise of Black businesses and the fact that there are no programs in place among us to come to each others' rescue when faced with the threat of financial ruin or extinction. We cannot expect others to care more about our institutions than we do.

It is up to us to develop the protocols and programs that not only shield our businesses from the onslaught of economic down turns, but to have the wherewithal to provide jobs, homes, assistance, guidance and support, while those who have been affected put the shreds of their lives back together. That is the true strength and and measure of self-empowerment - not just buzz words and tee shirts.

It was what the Black United Fund of New York (BUFNY) did, before Elliott Spitzer destroyed it. And it's unfortunate that in the time since it's demise we have not seen fit to either re-establish it, or to come up with a program that does the same or more.

Kermit Eady founded BUFNY
so that we would not be at the mercy of such rapacious situations. While they might not have been able to save 11 Broadcast stations, they certainly would have been able to assist InnerCity's flagship stations. Additionally, through their program, "The Helping Hand That Is Your Own" they would have been able to provide the ongoing financing so many of us are struggling to obtain via hostile banks and lending institution, because the money came from our own payroll deductible contributions. Not some outside source that wants to nickle and dime you to death and hold you hostage.

The one thing that should have come out of the Wall Street Project, as well as all the other Black oriented conferences that we attend is how to reinstate the BLACK UNITED FUND OF NEW YORK and inculcate their principles in our own self-sufficiency programs. We could have regenerated our own Black economic base long ago with the $1.50 per person per week contributions into a mutual fund which is how BUFNY raised $111 million a year to help Black people - USING NO FEDERAL DOLLARS WHATSOEVER. This was all money raised by Black People for Black People - hence the slogan
Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against federal dollars - money is money - but with BUFNY, those who needed help, but fell outside the so-called federal guidelines could get the assistance they needed because they were Black and they needed it - not because they made a nickle more or less than the criteria, or because they didn't live in a particular statistical demographic.

With so many of our businesses, homes, educational centers media outlets facing extinction, because we are the low man on the Totem Pole (an old American Indian saying, which means on the bottom) we need to be contacting Kermit Eady and saying "where are you? We need you?"

We will be monitoring the Inner City Broadcasting as they go through this challenge. However, a more pro-active outreach on the part of the family to the community is going to be required NOW if we are to begin to stop the hemorrhaging that is destroying our institutions, culture and communities..


Stay Blessed &


Gloria Dulan-Wilson

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