Mutual Black Network

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Photographs of a thoughtful man and woman, accompanied by extensive copy, including the slogan "The Voice of Black America".
Advertisement for the Mutual Black Network, featuring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and poet Nikki Giovanni.

The Mutual Black Network or MBN was founded by the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1972, this was the first national full-service radio network aimed at African Americans. It broadcast an hourly 5 minute newscast at 50 minutes past the hour. It also aired sports and feature programs, and for one year beginning in the spring of 1974, a 15-minute daily soap opera called Sounds Of The City. Some of its special programing focused on African American history, much of which was researched, written and narrated by MBN news anchor Ben Frazier.

Programming is what separated the Mutual Black Network from the rest of the pack. But its highest mark was made in the coverage of hard news and it’s savvy advocacy style of journalism. This was the genre of journalism, practiced by news anchors Ben Frazier, Glen Ford, John Askew and others. They would interview black news-makers who had previously been ignored by the traditional mass media outlets. Thanks to the Mutual Black Network, those news-makers, their agenda, dreams and anger would finally make it to the forefront of the American body politic. Their sound bites made it to the air and to a new level of relevancy because of the Mutual Black Network’s hourly newscasts. Tape editors James Barber and Gregory S. Kearse provided the bulk of sound bites for the hourly newscasts. He produced the Soul of Entertainment hosted by legendary newsman Ed Castleberry and interviewed stars such as Gladys Knight, Glynn Turman and the Pointer sisters. Kearse began as a weekend tape editor in 1974 while completing his B.A. degree in English, and left MBN to pursue a career in book publishing at Howard University Press in 1978.

The Mutual Black Network was later sold to Sheridan Broadcasting which was a minority stockholder in MBN, becoming the Sheridan Broadcasting Network. By 1991, it would merge with the National Black Network, forming the present-day American Urban Radio Networks.