Tuning In To The Chocolate City: Examining The Black Radio Landscape Of Washington D.C.
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In 1975, Parliament Funkadelic nicknamed Washington, D.C. “The Chocolate City,” acknowledging the city’s status as a center of black culture and community. As the city emerged as a booming metropolis with a thriving black population, blackowned radio was there to inform and entertain. Since the 1970s, black radio has enjoyed a privileged place among black audiences in Washington. Originally a venue for black artists to gain exposure, black radio evolved into a critical venue for black news, politics, community engagement, and entrepreneurship. Today, black radio stations in Washington, D.C. seek to balance the rapidly evolving radio landscape with claims to authenticity and efforts to draw connection with their listeners. This thesis explores three different radio ownership structures—community, college, and corporate—and their effects on programming decisions at three black radio stations in Washington, D.C. These three Washington stations – WKYS, WHUR, and WPFW – each represent different ownership models. Through interviews with programming directors at each station, analysis of show playlists, and examination of key moments in the history of each station, this thesis examines the creative, cultural, and economic considerations that go into programming decisions. This research will help shed light on the health and relevance of contemporary black radio in one local market and the varied ways that different radio outlets balance business motives with sociocultural connections.