Mutual Black Network
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The Mutual Black Network (MBN) was founded by the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1972 as the first national full-service radio network aimed at African Americans; it was initially branded as Mutual Reports before the branding change to MBN. With 98 affiliated stations across the United States, including flagship WBLS in New York, the network broadcast an hourly five-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 programming 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 its savvy advocacy style of journalism. This was a genre of journalism, practiced by news anchors Ben Frazier, Glen Ford, John Askew and others. They would interview black news-makers who had largely been ignored by most traditional mass media outlets, including Mutual's main network. 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. Kearse 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.
In 1981, the Mutual Black Network was purchased by Sheridan Broadcasting, an African American-owned company which had been a minority stockholder in MBN, and renamed the Sheridan Broadcasting Network. A decade later, SBN merged with the rival National Black Network, forming the present-day American Urban Radio Networks.
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