Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Applaud People Who Put Principle Above Profit

Like this black-owned media firm:
ST. LOUIS | A St. Louis company that operates four TV stations and a hip-hop radio station said today it is banning programming and music lyrics that it deems violent, sexist and racist.

The decision by black-owned Roberts Broadcasting Cos. comes less than a week after Don Imus was fired by CBS Radio for calling members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”

Fallout from the incident renewed debate about lyrics of many rap and hip-hop songs that are racially charged and derogatory toward women. The Rev. Al Sharpton has called entertainment the next battleground after Imus.

St. Louis brothers Michael and Steven Roberts operate a multifaceted business that includes an aviation company, shopping centers, hotels, construction firms and residential developments. The broadcasting unit includes four television stations — WRBU in St. Louis, WZRB in Columbia, S.C., WAZE in Evansville, Ind., and WRBJ in Jackson, Miss. The company also operates WRBJ-FM, a hip-hop station in Jackson.

“We take tremendous pride in being African-American and refuse to let anyone, white or black, strip us of that pride,” said Steven Roberts, president and chief operating officer of the company.

The decision will have an immediate impact on WRBJ-FM. Rather than censoring offensive words of songs, Roberts spokeswoman Keesha Dhaene said, “We’re going to ban them altogether, which is a hard move for a hip-hop station. If it’s offensive in any way toward women, toward African-Americans, it’s not going to be played on Hot 97.7.”

WRBJ-FM general manager Terrill Weiss said his staff faces a daunting task in sorting through song lyrics.

“There’s probably a higher incidence of derogatory language in general in hip-hop music because it’s a language of the street,” Weiss said. “It reflects life, and their art involves a lot of language that could be deemed objectionable.”

Still, Weiss applauded the move by Roberts. “I’m glad they made a decision to take a stand,” he said.

In a letter to the staff of WRBJ-FM on Wednesday, chairman and chief executive Michael Roberts wrote that the Imus case “has certainly put new fire under the need to respect ourselves first — specifically the hip-hop nation and rap music’s role in desensitizing our country to derogatory comments toward women and each other.”
Wow! This takes real courage--and a willingness to cut into one's profit margin. Sad to say, hip-hop is offensive because there's a sizable audience for it--especially among white suburban kids.

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