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WJNZ sale not just about highest bidder

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So urban radio station WJNZ-1140 AM has been sold.  Not to employee and programmer "Robert S" Womack who along with some investors, just last week seemed to be the new owner after his offer to the mortgage-holder appeared to have been accepted. But it was sold to a Lowell-based Christian radio broadcaster, Holy Family Radio, who outbid him after the bank opened a second bidding process for the foreclosed radio station.

The AM frequency has been broadcasting to a targeted black audience for many years, previously under the call letters WKWM.  Recently the bank foreclosed on properties and offered them up for auction.  And though the physical properties may be bought and sold, the actual license must be transferred with FCC approval.  Robert S is challenging that transfer.  And rightly so.

Radio licenses are governed by the FCC because they are are finite commodities operated in the public interest.  As stated in the FCC's The Public and Broadcating manual:

In exchange for obtaining a valuable license to operate a broadcast station using the public airwaves, each radio and television licensee is required by law to operate its station in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”  This means that it must air programming that is responsive to the needs and problems of its local community of license. 

Womack should be supported as he brings his challenge of the license transfer to court.  An African American voice and editorial opinion on the radio is increasingly rare in our community.  A Christian voice and opinion has pretty thorough saturation on the airwaves already.  Whether you listen to WJNZ or not, diversity is important for a healthy city and we should not allow for the only station in the market representing an African American perspective to just vanish from the radio landscape.  Last time I checked, black people still live here.  Just like every culture, some of them like to listen to the radio and hear voices that sound just a little bit like themselves and hear opinions, music and information that conform more closely to their tastes.

Robert S cannot just go to the store and buy a different radio station.  If WJNZ goes Christian, all the cool stuff about Grand Rapids will not compensate for the embarrassing fact that we are a City without a voice for a significant culture in our community.

WOOD TV8 Coverage

Grand Rapids Press Coverage


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Wow Chuck, thanks for bringing this to my attention! I have been long been a fan of Robert S. and consider his, and several others on that station to be a vital part of the Grand Rapids airwaves.

Are there any direct ways to support his efforts?