The first black owned television station was WGPR-TV Detroit. It was founded by William Venoid Banks and it meant programming targeted to the black audience. Banks was a minister, attorney, and member of The International Free and Accepted Modern Masons (IFAMM), in which he founded. He also controlled Detroit’s first black owned radio station, called WGPR-FM.
It all got started when Banks sat down with President Richard Nixon, and they started conversing about blacks involvement in the broadcasting field. Nixon told him that he needed to obtain a Federal Communications Commission License. With that license you are required to have enough fund to run the station for a whole year.Since Banks was the founder of the IFAMM, he used that money from member’s monthly subscriptions to start his radio station (WGPR-FM), but with purchasing the television station, he sold 100 acres of the Mason’s land in the Florida Gold Coast, with amounted to $750,000. They owned a hotel as well, that they sold.
When he had the funds to start the station, it went live on September 29, 1975. The station aired locally produced shows such as Big City News, that showed success stories The Scene, which was a dance show that showed the city’s musical and dance talents.
In the early 1980’s the station failed to attract an audience outside of Detroit, so another station took over the scene targeting blacks–B.E.T. By the 1990’s, WGPR-TV only showed reruns and infomercials on the station. By 1995, the station was sold to CBS but Banks still wanted the station to be targeted to blacks but eventually the name was changed to WWJ-TV, and they targeted a general audience, as you can see today.
featured image photo credit: geantav.hol.es
Sources: blackpast.org; dbusiness.com
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