WGPR-TV: First Black Owned TV Station in the U.S.

Published at : July 28th, 2019

The first Black-owned Television station in the U.S was WGPR-TV (Where God’s Presence Radiates) located in Detroit, MI. The station was founded by William Venoid Banks and was targeted to a Black audience in Detroit. Banks was an attorney, minister and prominent member of the International Free and Accepted Modern Masons, an organization he founded in 1950. The Masons owned the majority of stock in the station.

WGPR-TV first aired Sept. 29, 1975, on channel 62 in Detroit. The network started off airing religious shows, R&B music shows, off-network dramas, syndicated shows, and older cartoons.

The station broadcast some locally-produced shows such as Big City News, The Scene, and Arab Voice of Detroit. Big City News was weekly newscast that focused on activities in the community, positive success stories and the Black perspective on politics and various social issues. The Scene was a nightly dance show that offered the youth an opportunity to display their musical and dance talents. Arab Voice of Detroit was a public affairs show directed toward the significant Arab American population in Detroit and its suburbs.

Although the station was popular among the Black community in Detroit. WGPR-TV couldn’t attract a larger enough audience to compete with larger stations. The network’s most powerful competition was Black Entertainment Television (BET). Then on July 25, 1995, the station was sold to CBS amid controversy from the Black community who felt that the station should have remained black-owned. Two months later, CBS changed the television station name to WWJ-TV and targeted its programming for a general audience.

The Black Detour. (2018). WGPR-TV: First Black-owned TV station in the U.S. Retrieved from https://theblackdetour.com/wgpr-tv-first-black-owned-tv-station-in-the-u-s/