This report from the Kansas City Star:

Black-owned broadcasting company bans racist and sexist music


Associated Press Writer

A St. Louis company that operates four TV stations and a hip-hop radio station said Wednesday it is banning programming and music lyrics that it deems violent, sexist and racist.

The decision by black-owned Roberts Broadcasting Cos. LLC 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.”

The lineup on Roberts’ four TV stations could eventually be affected, but not immediately, Dhaene said. All of the stations but the one in St. Louis are affiliates of the network the CW. The St. Louis station is an affiliate of MyNetworkTV, a mini-network launched last year by News Corp.’s Fox television unit.

“We will begin screening syndicated episodes more closely,” Dhaene said. The stations will not censor network programming, but Dhaene said the company has never received complaints about content of the network shows.


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