#WGPR-TV (Where God’s Presence Radiates) was the first television station in the United States owned and operated by African Americans. The station was founded by William Venoid Banks, and was located in Detroit, Michigan. The station’s programming during that time was geared toward the #Black communities. The first air date was September 29, 1975 on channel 62.
Banks was a prominent member of the International Free and Accepted Modern Masons, an organization which he founded, and he was a well-respected minister. The station initially broadcast religious shows, R&B music shows, off-network dramas, syndicated shows and older cartoons. According to TellusDetroit.com, “It was Banks’ vision that WGPR-TV provide African Americans with crucial training and experience in the television industry, allowing many local blacks the opportunity to work “behind the camera” in producing, directing and other roles which placed content on air.”
The station aired locally-produced programming including Big City News, and The Arab Voice of Detroit. However, one of the most popular and widely viewed shows on the TV station was The Scene, the mythic, notorious Detroit urban dance show that turned Motown into Geektown five days a week from October 1975 to December 1987. Nat Morris, the glib, raw-voiced emcee and executive producer of the dance and music program.
Whatever the station had in popularity among blacks in television, WGPR-TV failed to attract a large audience outside the African-American community. Even within that community, it competed with larger stations that after 1975 offered more programs directed toward African Americans. After 1980, the station faced its most powerful competition in the Black Entertainment Television (BET). By the early 1990s the station was airing primarily infomercials and reruns.
The station was sold in 1995 to CBS, however, people within the Black community wanted to see the management of the station remain in the hand of African-Americans. The Masons in particular were criticized for selling the station to a mainstream network. A few months later after acquiring the radio station, CBS changed the television station’s name to WWJ-TV and targeted. The station now focuses on a more of a general audience.