Inner City Broadcasting Corporation

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The Inner City Broadcasting Corporation ("ICBC") was an American media company based in New York City. It was one of the first broadcasting companies wholly owned by African-Americans.


Inner City was founded in 1970 by a group of prominent African-American New Yorkers active in business and civic affairs. They were led by Percy Sutton, an attorney and a former president of the New York borough of Manhattan; and Clarence Jones, a former publisher of the New York Amsterdam News. Sutton and Jones were joined by over fifty shareholders including legendary disk jockey Hal Jackson; Sutton's fellow "Gang of Four" member David Dinkins, who would later become New York's first African-American mayor; Wilbert (Bill) Tatum, who succeeded Jones as publisher of the Amsterdam News; future New York state senator and comptroller Carl McCall; Betty Shabazz, the widow of Black Muslim minister and civil rights leader Malcolm X, and musicians Billy Taylor and Roberta Flack. Dorothy Brunson, who would later become the first African-American woman to wholly own an American radio station, was an executive at the company during its early years.

WLIB, owned by brothers Harry and Morris S. Novik and programmed to New York's black community, was Inner City's first acquisition, in 1972.[1] The sale included a right of first refusal clause to later acquire sister station WLIB-FM, which was renamed WBLS; Inner City exercised the clause two years later.[2] While WLIB continued largely as a talk radio outlet, WBLS's format transitioned from jazz to a progressive mix of black music, under the slogan "The Total Black Experience in Sound." WBLS would experience a period of tremendous success from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s as it pioneered the urban contemporary format under program director Frankie Crocker, and the profile of Inner City rose with it.

Inner City later purchased radio stations in the Los Angeles area; Detroit; San Antonio, Texas (co-founder Percy Sutton's hometown); the San Francisco Bay Area; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Columbia, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi. Inner City also owned a variety of other media assets, including two cable television joint ventures with Time Warner Cable in New York City and Philadelphia.

The company was also given the task of running and reviving the Apollo Theater in New York's Harlem.[3] In this capacity, Inner City Broadcasting was a co-producer of the syndicated television variety series It's Showtime at the Apollo.

Recent developments[edit]

In 1990 Percy Sutton retired as chairman of the board of Inner City Broadcasting, though he remained as chairman emeritus until his death in 2009. He was succeeded by his son Pierre Sutton, who served in that capacity until the firm's closure.

In 1999 Inner City lost control of the Apollo Theatre after an investigation by the New York State Attorney General's office (completed by Eliot Spitzer) found that members of the nonprofit Apollo Theatre Foundation, led by Charles Rangel, retained revenues generated by production of It's Showtime at the Apollo. The final decision resulted in Rangel stepping down as chairman of the foundation; he was replaced by actor Ossie Davis. Time Warner took over operational control of the venue as part of the final decision.[4]

In August 2004, ICBC redeemed nearly $140 million[5] accreted value of redeemable preferred stock in a recapitalization led by GE Capital and Alta Communications, a Boston-based private equity firm.[6] By 2006 Inner City had sold or otherwise disposed of the majority of its investments outside of its core radio stations. The last remaining investment, a 60 percent share in Philadelphia-based Urban Cable Works, was sold in November 2005 to Time Warner Cable.

On August 22, 2011, Inner City's creditors petitioned the United States Bankruptcy Court to force the firm's wholly owned subsidiary, Inner City Media Corporation, to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy on grounds that the company's executives failed to accept a buyout offer. The filing resulted in majority control of Inner City being taken over by YMF Media LLC, controlled jointly by investor Ronald Burkle and former NBA player Earvin "Magic" Johnson.[7] YMF Media eventually purchased 15 Inner City stations for $180 million on October 19, 2012; the firm then broke up the group in a series of subsequent sales during 2013–2014.


AM Stations FM Stations
Market Station Years owned Current ownership
San Francisco - Oakland - San Jose KBLX-FM 102.9 1979–2012 Entercom Communications
KVTO 1400 1979–2012 Pham Radio Communication
KVVN 1430 1997–2012 Pham Radio Communication
Los Angeles KGFJ 1230
(now KYPA)
Multicultural Broadcasting
KUTE 101.9
(now KSCA)
1979–1985 Univision Radio
Miami - Ft. Lauderdale - Hollywood, FL WSRF 1580 Niche Radio, Inc.
WSHE 103.5
(now WMIB)
iHeartMedia, Inc.
Fort Wayne, Indiana WOWO 1190 1994–1995 Pathfinder Communications Corporation
WOWO-FM 102.9
(now WJCI)
1994 Summit City Radio
Detroit WLBS 102.7
(now WDKL)
1979–1988 Radio One
Philadelphia WHAT 1340 2000–2006 Marconi Broadcasting
Pittsburgh WURP 1550
(now WZUM)
2000–2007 Business Talk Radio Network
San Antonio KSJL 760
(now KTKR)
1986–1993 iHeartMedia, Inc.
(now KXXM)
1986–1998 iHeartMedia, Inc.
New York City WLIB 1190 1972–2012 Emmis Communications
WBLS 107.5 1974–2012 Emmis Communications
Jackson, Mississippi WJNT 1180 2006–2012 Alpha Media
WJQS 1400 2000–2012 Alpha Media
WOAD 1300 2000–2012 Alpha Media
WJMI 99.7 2000–2012 Alpha Media
WKXI-FM 107.5 2000–2012 Alpha Media
WRKS 105.9 2000–2012 Alpha Media
Columbia, South Carolina WPCO 1230 2000–2012 Alpha Media
WARQ 93.5 2000–2012 Alpha Media
WHXT 103.9 2003–2012 Alpha Media
WMFX 102.3 2000–2012 Alpha Media
WWDM 101.3 2000–2012 Alpha Media
WZMJ 93.1 2003–2012 Lake Murray Communications

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, July 3, 1972, pg. 23. [1][permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, July 29, 1974, pg. 21. [2][permanent dead link]
  3. ^ 9E07EFDE1038F931A35751C0A964948260 Inner City Broadcasting Plans to Buy the Apollo, Published: February 2, 1982: New York Times
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Quetzal JPMorgan Partners - Portfolio". Archived from the original on 2005-10-24. Retrieved 2005-07-18.
  6. ^ "Quetzal/J.P. Morgan Partners Sells Stock in Inner City Broadcasting". 2004-08-13. Archived from the original on 2005-09-03. Retrieved 2005-07-18.
  7. ^ "Creditors seek black radio company's bankruptcy". Reuters. August 22, 2011.