Both listeners and owners of Black radio took to the streets and airwaves Wednesday, protesting a bill sponsored by one of the nation's most respected Black congressmen.
A long-time champion of civil rights, Democrat John Conyers has angered many communities that value Black-owned broadcast outlets by sponsoring a bill that some say will require stations to pay millions to record companies for the right to play music.
Demonstrators gathered outside the 80-year-old Democrat's Detroit office for a "Save Black Radio" rally, while Radio One CEO Cathy Hughes broadcast a plea to listeners of her stations nationwide.
Hughes' "open letter" reads in part: "The Honorable John Conyers...is the sponsor of a new bill that could put many Black-owned radio stations out of business and force others to abandon their commitment to provide free music, entertainment, news, information, and money-losing formats like gospel and Black talk...The music that you now receive free from us, we would have to pay millions of dollars for. And in the midst of this economic depression, Black radio stations simply do not have that financial ability."
Hughes and others urged the public to write and e-mail Conyers to show opposition to the bill. Hughes says she and Rev. Al Sharpton, activist Dick Gregory and syndicated radio personality Tom Joyner, among others, say they have been unsuccessful in gaining an audience with Conyers.