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Buying Power report: Blacks spend as economy grows
New 16th edition shows $507 bil in spending

The finding comes from the 16th annual edition of "The Buying Power of Black America" report. In 2009, black households spent an estimated $507 billion in 27 product and services categories. ...

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Black media owners encourage their audiences to fight for change and control

(February 9, 2012) At the recent Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit, African-American media owners sound the alarm on the economic threats to their survival. During a panel entitled "Equity and Ownership in the Media," the panel shared examples of the dire circumstances being faced by black radio, TV, publication and Web site owners.

"We are all struggling today," said Steven C. Roberts, President, Roberts Broadcasting Co. The firm at one time owned 15 TV stations and now owns four. "If you think it's hard to find a job, or hard to get lending, can you imagine going to a bank and saying I want to open up a TV station or create a newspaper, or buy a radio station. But we all can, through our economic pressure, make a difference."

Some panelists suggested that it's time to take action through the legal process.

"I love being a local broadcaster." said Melody Spann Cooper, President of Chicago-based Midway Broadcasting and WVON-AM. "I'm there to be a public service and for us to have a voice. We have got to look at this thing in a different way. Everything that impacted change for us has been through legislation. We have got to look at the possibility of some kind of legislation to ensure [our survival]."

Seeking relief, however, through the courts and Congress won't happen soon enough to change some situations, especially among African-American radio owners.

"Now we find in 2007 with the Great Recession, that what was a slow decline in minority broadcasting ownership has now become a precipitous decline, said Jim Winston, executive director of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters. "As a result of the recession and a number of other events that have come to pass, Inner City Broadcasting has been forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A court hearing is schedule for February at which time it is anticipated the control of ownership of ICBC will pass away from the family of founder Percy Sutton and the African-Americans that own the company to the banks that have taken control of their debt.

"This is a blow to the entire African-American owned broadcasting community. And a loss of broadcast control is a loss to the entire community," said Winston. "It's not just a business matter, it's a community empowerment matter." Innercity Broadcasting, the heritage media company in this country that was started by Percy Sutton 40 years ago, currently owns 13 radio stations including WBLS-FM in New York City.

"The issue is just not about advertising dollars, but advertising jobs," said Munson Steed, publisher of rolling out weekly and head of the Madison Avenue Initiative. "A company like BMW can say to their advertising agency, ‘don't advertise to African-American people,' and our community didn't riot, our community didn't send 10,000 e-mails. We've gotten so passive about getting our share of anything."

Some speakers insisted the African-American consumer, which a recent study released by the Nielsen Co. stated is approaching $1.1 trillion in buying power, has to be the front line for bringing about change.

"The reality is the only pure way to combat this, the only way it's going to work is if we affect the financial bottom line of these companies," said Len Burnett, Jr., Group Publisher, Vibe and Uptown magazines. "Change is not going to come unfortunately through a lot of conversation, a lot of salesmenship, a lot of new media -- that will help but change is only going to come when we know our worth. Until we stop buying from companies that do not want to advertise to us, it's not going to change."

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