Kudos to Steve Harvey, 60, and his massive success as an industry mogul. His success is a great story for him but a sad story for many young black radio announcers who want to get into urban radio.
For more than a decade Harvey’s show has been in urban radio national syndication and has been the catalyst that has opened the door for many more successful projects for Harvey and his former business partner. While segments of his show, like Nephew Tommy’s prank calls, are hilarious a massive void for fresh perspectives has swept over the urban radio industry, often cited as already being over saturated with syndicated shows in comparison to other formats.
While traveling around the country over the last few weeks, I am amazed and disturbed at the young black radio talent relegated to part-time or shift positions that do not allow them to shine and grow. As a former programmer, I find it unfortunate that they are stuck and that their dreams may never be realized because they can’t get on to do mornings which is a radio station’s most prized time slot. Unfortunately, Steve Harvey and his morning show are one of the main reasons.
The radio cycle works in succession for the most part. Jocks start off doing part time and work their way up to mornings which is the most coveted position on the air before becoming a radio programmer.
Over the last two decades, there have been very few new programmers in the urban radio arena which is great for seasoned programmers but it is also a cycle that has been interrupted by too many syndicated shows. We’re losing a lot of young great talent who could bring so much more to the table as they are losing interest because there is no room for them to grow and do mornings in their respective markets. This has greatly hurt local urban stations especially when local news, politics, community concerns, sports or events and local areas of interest would benefit from further exploration on a local morning show. Also, the best connection between the local audience and the station is made during the morning show.
I’ve talked to many black programmers who tell me they would love to have a local morning show but Harvey’s parent company, Premiere Radio, is adamant to block the morning slot at as many urban radio stations as possible to keep Harvey in the position over anyone else and many are under contractual obligation to keep the show on. Listeners are none the wiser about how radio works and to Harvey’s credit, they are entertained by segments of the show.
Yesterday, Premiere Radio announced that Steve Harvey is now on at over 100 stations. Premiere Radio Networks has an interesting reputation in the urban radio industry. One station in a major market had completed its obligation to run Harvey’s show. They didn’t want to renew. They were ready to give an eager black local team a chance to shine when Premiere stepped in and offered them ‘the moon’ to keep it on. Reluctantly, they renewed. This is a station in a major market which is important to advertisers on the syndicated shows like the SHMS.
100 stations is 100 opportunities denied for young black talent to shine that will not be realized. Harvey has expressed his desire to see young black men and women succeed and this certainly is one of the best ways for them to do that, in the field of communications as true, determined, eager, hard-working broadcast and radio professionals. To have a platform to reach hundreds of thousands of other people. While that would be an incredible gift for Harvey to give back to the radio industry, chances are he won’t. The massive success of the show would be too hard to part ways with but one might ponder how many projects can one man do as the frontman?
Radio was a springboard for Harvey’s current massive success but he is not a radio professional. He’s a comedian who used radio as an opportunity to advance his career. Nobody can be mad at him for that but at what point will he consider giving radio back to young black kids who want to have the same success who are already at odds with opportunities to work in other formats besides urban radio?
While we are not living in an age of “Black Radio” anymore, the industry would greatly benefit from seeing more Charlamagne’s, Wendy Williams’ and Tom Joyners,’ people who have actually paid the dues and take a radio career as a profession seriously. As listeners continue to have more options to listen to music, Millennials are not as interested in commercial radio as previous generations and commercial urban radio is going to have to establish a more progressive approach with listeners in order to continue to compete with the growing streaming industry.