- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Local broadcaster Radio One Inc. is planning a national radio network that would carry its signature programming for black audiences, the company's president said yesterday.

The network would allow the Lanham, Md., company to air programs like "The Steve Harvey Morning Show" on stations it does not own. Currently, it is heard only on KKBT-FM (100.3), a Radio One-owned station in Los Angeles.

"There are tons of stations beyond our own that would like to have him, but there's no deal beyond L.A. right now," company President and Chief Executive Officer Alfred C. Liggins III said in an interview with Radio and Records, an online trade publication.

The $155 million company, founded in 1980 by Mr. Liggins' mother, Catherine L. Hughes, is the nation's largest black-owned broadcaster. It owns more than 60 radio stations, including seven in the Washington area.

The new network would pull programs that originate on Radio One's local stations, including the morning show hosted by Russ Parr and Olivia Fox on WKYS-FM (93.9) and the Joe Madison talk show on WOLB-AM (1010), Mr. Liggins said.

He said he plans to announce the new network at a National Association of Broadcasters conference in Septmber. Mr. Liggins and other executives did not return telephone calls yesterday.

Radio One would compete in a roughly $950 million industry with networks operated by media giants such as Viacom Inc. and the Walt Disney Co., according to William B. Meyers, a radio analyst for Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in New York.

There are a handful of smaller players, including the HBC Radio Network Inc. of Dallas, which distributes Spanish-language programs to affiliates across the country.

Although Radio One has never run its own network, it is the dominant owner of stations that broadcast to black audiences, Mr. Meyers said.

In the fall, the company bought 12 stations from the nation's largest radio chain, Clear Channel Communications Inc. of San Antonio. Within three months, the average rating for the stations climbed 12 percent, he said.

"They've done a phenomenal job of acquiring stations and turning them around," Mr. Meyers said.

A national network is the next logical step for Radio One, said Tom Taylor, editor of M Street Daily, an industry newsletter.

"It seems Mr. Liggins has looked at the stations he has acquired and said, 'We should be able to capitalize on this.' That's what's really going on here," Mr. Taylor said.

The key to the company's growth has been the lucrative black audience, according to analysts.

The typical black consumer 12 years and older spends 24 hours and 30 minutes a week listening to the radio, about three hours and 45 minutes longer than the average for all consumers, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau, a research group in New York.

Radio One, which began publicly trading on Nasdaq under the symbol ROIA in May 1999, reported a $4.2 million loss in 2000 compared with net income of $13,000 the year before. Revenue climbed 97.2 percent to $155.7 million.

Shares in the company closed yesterday at $20.99, up $1.29. The stock has traded for as low as $5.50 a share and as high as $32 a share in the last year.

Ms. Hughes, a former radio talk show host, is Radio One's chairwoman and secretary. She and Mr. Liggins control 56 percent of the company's voting stock.

Ms. Hughes generated controversy in 1994 when she made on-air complaints about the District's rising Hispanic population and Hispanic drunken drivers.

Four years later, she rejected a $500,000 state loan from Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening to encourage Radio One's move from the District to Lanham.

Lawmakers said the deal smacked of favoritism, since the Democratic governor's political allies often appeared on Radio One's local stations.

Radio One and BET Holdings II Inc., the Washington parent of Black Entertainment Television, have competed over the years. BET has flirted with the idea of getting into the radio business, and Radio One has invested in New Urban Entertainment Television, a BET rival.

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