For the last few months as I’ve driven through the state of Maryland as well as Washington, D.C., I’ve been inundated with numerous Radio One public service announcements, charging members of the United States legislature with destroying black radio if a proposed performance tax goes through the house. Cathy Hughes, the founder of Radio One has taken to the airwaves with spots that amount to nothing more than fear-mongering and mud-slinging, as she has attacked the RIAA, John Conyers, Sheila Jackson Lee and Hank Johnson of the Congressional Black Caucus for proposing and backing H.R. 848, which is designed to charge radio stations a fee for every song they play and the money is said to be going to the artist themselves.
Hughes’ spots include a soundtrack fitting of her message for the particular day, including stories of deceased grandmothers being sued by the RIAA and the most recent spot about alleged infighting amongst Congress and the House of Representatives on the subject of a performance tax. Ms. Hughes is blasting the CBC and the RIAA under the guise of doing what’s best for the artists and black radio. The reality (no pun intended) is that the Radio One empire stands to crumble if H.R. 848 becomes law. And we can’t have that, can we? To quote Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson), “Child please.”
Hughes’ Radio One is one of the main culprits of playing songs that for the most part have no redeeming quality in the Black community and shutting little-known and – let’s keep it 100, TRUE – artists out of spins because of a strong desire to play the same two and three records of the same five to ten artists for 24 hours a day. And the breakup (or as Hughes’ panicky ads suggest, breakdown) of Radio One means that the market would be open for other aspiring radio entrepreneurs to open up stations in various markets and give Radio One and Clear Channel (who strangely enough hasn’t been as vocal as Hughes on the issue) some sorely-needed competition.
Cathy Hughes is clearly living in an alternate reality if she believes herself to be some champion righting the wrongs of the big bad Government. The performance tax would force radio stations to show some variety and give other artists a chance to break their music and say something with it instead of having our kids doing the Stanky Leg or asking their classmates for some Becky.