BjHjjBKRfHHlHBSpB I "KULCHUR" In "KULCHUIT I The luige, airy building on E. Jefferson that house s WGPR-TV. Channel 62. was jumping. Set designers and carpenters continued studio construction, announcers read through their copy in resonant voices, carneramen and editors reviewed taped reports fresh off the streets. wire service tickers chuckled, and phones rang and rang again. The building itself, eventually to house both WGPR-TV and WGPR-FM, was still under construction, and all the doors to all the rooms were open. There was a palpable sense of shared excitement and energy. After all, these workers were in on the ground floor of the nation's first black-owned and operated televisión station. Consider that ten years ago there were no black faces on TV. To this day, only 33 of this nation's over 7000 radio stations are black-owned and operated. As of noon, September 2C), 1975 Detroiters can tune in a station with an on-air staff that is 9)fL macK, anu wnai s more, a siauoii which pledges that fully 60% of its programming wil] be conceived and produced by local black talents. Televisión has refleeted an absolute white hegemony since the day it first winked on. Now Detroiters have a station that programs with their interests and unique viewpoints in rnind. George White, WGPR Vice-president of Programming. outlined the void that Channel 62 will fül: "There wouldn't be any need for a station of this type if things were running as a democratie society should be run. The pioblem with the general media, and this refers to TV stations too. is that they haven't eonsidered us important enough. Therein lies the tieed." Until ten or twelve years ago Blacks were represented on TV only by the likes of Amos and Andy. Carne the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement and the diligent viewer eould find the rare black face showing up on commercials and variety shows (good ol' Sammy Davis). It was a breakthrough of sorts when Bill Cosby, in 1965, was co-starred on "I Spy" (althougli it took the network three years to allow him any romantic interests). 1972 saw the advent of "Sanford and Son," starring Redd Foxx and occasionally wntten by Richard Pryor, which was the tirst primetime situation comedy show about working-class blacks as opposed to "Julia" which starred Diahann Carrol] and depicted "respectable" black folks. Even so, "Sanford and Son" is hardly a hair above the rest of televised fare. With the exception of some locally-originated programining (like Project BAIT's) televisión is designed to appeal to what the executives conceive of as the "lowest commön denominator" of the potential viewing audience, an ideal which tends to perpetúate the ignorance that abounds in America while using it as their justification for continued low-level programming. " Ironically. televisión is at once the most oppressive medium and the most potentially liberating. "Power." according to Huey Newton, "is the ability to define phenomena and make them act in a desired manner." People can only act on the information available to them and if you control the information flow you control their possible action too. Televisión executives, in collaboration with the federal government, know this and deliberately keep things low-key so as not to shake people awake. WGPR-TV has the potential now for providing a real alternative, a rare opportunity indeed. The "Big City News," for example. plans to look events in deptli which the other '"news" shows brush off in 90 seconds. You can be sure that if there's another "riot"as the white media termed the community response to the shooting incident on Livernois this past August-there will be at least one TV station on the scène with reliable, level-headed reportage. Eventsin Detroit which are ignorcd hy the othei media will be covered on WGPR. Whites should t'md the approach a refreshing change as wcll. How did ilus miracle, a community-oriented televisión station, come to pass? So far, every penny of the over S4 million sunk into the station foi ita studio facilities, brand-new state-of-the-arl equipment, and staff has come frórn the International free and Aecepted Modem Masons (also known as the Black Masons), a 350,000-membei international black fraternal organiation founded hy Dr. William V. Banks, twentyfive years ago. Dr. Banks, a 72-yeai-old lawyer-minister. is president of both WGPRFM and WGPR-TV. Ile said thai the Black Masons iaised much of the nioney by liquidating real estáte holdings across the country. Originally (hey'd attempted to uei bank toa na to tinance at least half of the project but were turned down cold. "We fooled around with iliai foi about iwo years." Banks s;iid. With Black Mason funding assured, Hanks wem ahead undeterred and applied to the Federal Communications Commission Foi a license. Presiden! (al the time) Nixon was fully behind theii e f fort, according to Banks, and promised to do everything he could to lielp. Aftei Nixon's remo val, Ford likowise pledpcd support and, indeed, ca me through when the station needed steel te construct its antenna (now located ai !■'.■ Mile Road and Meyers), die time Banks was told thal there was a 13-month backlog because the federal governmenl was using most of the avaiïable steel. "Well," laughed Banks, "heFon pul through an order and within two weeks we had the steel." As the area's etghth televisión station, there mighl have been some cause lor won y concerning us continuad funding and the search foi the advertising dollar. Jut main adyëriisoiS have already recognized the specialized market represented by VYGPR-TV, and both national and regional funis have bought time. These include each ol the Uip 1-oui automakers, Seais. S.s. Kresge, Stroh's Beer, and many others. In addition, GPR offers a smal! business packagc thal gives a rate break to many local businesses whicli might otherwise never have the opportunity to adverlise effectively on TV. (WGPR's revolutionary new portable cameras will also cut production costs in this areac) One can only hope that the WGPR-TV advertismg and production staffs have more 'respect for theii audiencc than WGPR-FM who aim theii manie commercials at some mythic, mindless consnmer. They might also guard against the explicit politics of the auto and oil companies infecting the programming. So what, in particular, will we see when we tune in Channel 62? The twice-daily "Big City News," fot one thing. Former WWJ-TV anchorman Jerry Blocker heads a young, capable news team of 13 (most area TV stations make do with news statïs of 50 or 60). The "Big City News" has no obligation to the suburbs and consequently serves Detroiters with concentrated coverage of events of importance to them, events either overlooked or skimmed over by the other stations. (See related box.) Approximately one week from now, as soon as their big studio is complet ed, Vicepresident of Programming George White and the writers and producers who work .with him will begin to meet the challenge of their announcementthat (()'; of Wül'K's programming will be locally-originated. The boldness and necessity of this design must be appreciated. Although the population of Detroit is 60% black, one can walk from one end of town to the other and find pitifully few movie theaters which run films continued on page 13 Records Cortcerts Jheatre Fine FitmBooks Records Theatre Fine 'fe Can Pull Ws Se et on Out ! WGPK-TV continuad from page 9 wiih ;i positivo slant on black experience. I his isn"i alwiiys a matter of conscious exclusión. It's simply that btack writeis, directors, and producers have i'or so long hcon barred from Hollywood that virtually no such suitable product exists. White and the WGPR stalïhad no clínico hui to do ii themselves trom scratch. A f uil schedule of the Gl'R Far in ïts present state appeais at the end of tliis ai liclc. Highlights include: "A Time to 1 rve" black situation drama. ♦"The Scène" dance party featuring lic acts, including tocal artisis and records, hosted by GPR-FM d Ray Henderson and Nal Monis. "Speaking of Spons" with a local emphasis, including high school athletics "('orneis ot' Black Ilistoiy" ♦"Detroit Open l ine" I V call-in interview show. Televisión stations jcioss the country will be looking to WGPR for qualiis blactc-directed programs, and the prospects for syndication aio very high indeed A company in Puerto Rico has alicadv expressed a desire u distribute "A time to Live" and "The Scène" throughout tho Caribbcan and even in Argentina, where black informatkin is soiely lacking. When WGPR-TV first began bn casting on September 2l' (and the signal is good and simng, by the way), the local media responded with headlines thai read "Detroit's 8th IV Station Fakes to Ihe An." It's precisery thai type of odd, not to say racist, perspective which shoutd iip ofi the astute viewei thai not only i. WGPR the nation's lust blackciwned and biack-operated televisión lion, hut n is also Detroit 's fint televi sion station ofany real conseque As George White put it, "Essentially, we are tho real Detroit station."