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Local News in Virginia

New Radio Station Joins Shrunken League of Black Broadcasting

By Leonard E. Colvin

Chief Reporter

New Journal and Guide

When its General Manager, Dr. Princella Johnson announced that the FCC had approved a license allowing WORJ-LP 103.5 to begin broadcasting, it joined the small community of Black-owned radio stations in the region.

There are 55 AM and FM radio stations in the region, but the low powered WORJ-LP is just one of six owned by African-Americans in Hampton Roads.

WORJ-LP or Worship Jesus Radio, according to Johnson, will operate 24 hours and have a religious based format, but it will also have secular talk and music programming.

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“The station’s primary mission is to publicize the Gospel of Jesus Christ to help reap an end-time harvest of souls for His Kingdom,” said Johnson. “We are also a vehicle for local community news, severe weather warnings, children’s Bible programs, education, and uplifting spiritual entertainment for listeners of all ages.”

The station will be known as Worship Jesus Radio™ but will also be referred to as Worship HIM-FM™, and will air classic and current music from several genres to include: Gospel, CCM, Christian Rock, Contemporary Praise& Worship, International Worship, Southern Gospel and Quartets. Featured artists such as Fred Hammond, Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Marvin Sapp and many traditional as well as contemporary groups will fill the station’s airwaves.

The station’s 100-watt signal, for now, is strongest in the northern section of Suffolk and nearby areas. But Johnson said the station will be applying for more wattage to increase its reach to other parts of the Hampton Roads.

Until then, Johnson said that listeners outside the station’s broadcast range, in the near future, will be able to listen to programming via internet streaming at www.WorshipJesusradio.com.

She said also the station will be seeking permission to install “translators” or “amplifiers” for listeners in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, where a large portion of the potential audience lives and works.

Apart from the religious programming, Johnson said there will be programs and talk shows addressing a wide range of issues: civil, economic and voting rights, education, police-community relations and judicial information to “galvanize the Black community toward resolving these issues collectively.”

To build support and interest in the station, Johnson said a public information forum will be held at The Master’s House Church at 4165 Pruden Boulevard in Suffolk, September 24 at 7:30 p.m. for interested station volunteers, sponsors and underwriters.

Johnson received her license as a nonprofit organization. She said in 1998 and again in 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted a number of non profit organizations low watt frequencies to increase the number of local radio stations.

“The legislation first came down during the (George W) Bush administration and now it seems President Obama is making sure it happens on his watch,” said Johnson.

Johnson said members of her non profit Worship Jesus Radio used the online fundraising apparatus, GO-Fund to gather over $12,000 to pay for the start up costs of the radio station including finding a location, an engineer and equipment.

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Mike Chandler, co-owner of the Black-owned Communication Systems’ WSMI 100.9, and Johnson have worked together during their career and both hope this is an effort by the Obama administration to reverse a downward trend in Black radio station owner.

According to Chandler, during the 1970s Blacks gained significant footing in the broadcast industry when White broadcasters could sell stations to them and secure large tax benefits.

The late Bishop Levi Willis of Norfolk built the first Black radio network by securing small low watt radio station throughout the Southeast. The stations, and the network of Church of God and Christ (COGIC) congregations, Willis’ “Crusade For Christ” radio program could be heard as far away as Texas.

Chandler said the Reagan administration abolished the tax credit killing the incentive for White broadcasters to sell to minorities.

The administration also “deregulated” the local ownership rules, increasing the number of stations a broadcast network could own in a given market.

It was not unusual for White broadcast giants to own six stations in an area, especially powerful and profitable ones which had large numbers of reliable Black listeners.

”Most of the stations in this area are owned by large corporations who will own multiple stations,” said Chandler. “They can then squeeze out minority owned stations, by offering advertisers special rates and prime advertising slots. Also, they tell advertisers if ‘you do business with that small Black-owned station, you won’t get the special rates or preferred time slots to promote your products.”

Over the past decade many Black owners sold their stations to large corporations reducing the number of Blacks in the radio and tv broadcast industry.

NABOB, The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, once had hundreds of members. Now Chandler said that membership national has shrunk to a non-existence.

In Hampton Roads, WVKL and WOWI are number 1 and 2 among the area’s top five radio stations and they cater to Black music listening taste, but are not owned by Blacks or any local entity.

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According to access.com, none of the top 30 stations in the region currently are owned by Blacks.

Along with Chandler’s Black-owned WSMI 100.9, and the newcomer WORG-LP 103.8, the only other Black-owned commercial stations in Hampton Roads are Willis Broadcasting’s WGPL and WPCE.

WHOV 88, owned by Hampton University, is private and is deemed a minority-owned station. WNSB, NSU’s student-run radio station is actually owned by the state of Virginia.

A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Johnson has worked for Armed Forces radio, Willis Broadcasting and WTJG and other media outlets in the region.

“We are trying to fill in a very large communications void with this radio station,” she said. “Whoever controls the media will control the message, the information and image of people to define themselves.

“We have discovered that providing positive messages and Images of Black people are not a priority for White ration station owners,” she said. “So here is our opportunity to own an outlet which will allow us to do this for ourselves.”

For more information about WORG-LP 103.5, call (757) 320-5700 or (757) 935-5877 or WorshipJesusRadio@gmail.com.

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