The nation’s first Black-owned television station, WGPR, officially debuted on this day in 1975 in Detroit, Mich.. The station was the brainchild of William V. Banks, a son of a Kentucky sharecropper who also created Detroit’s first Black-owned radio station bearing the same call letters.
William Venoid Banks was a Detroit attorney and leader of the International Free and Accepted Masons group. A 1972 meeting with President Richard Nixon provided the inspiration and connections Banks would need to start WGPR.
A Nixon insider and FCC appointee helped moved Banks’ application for the station past governmental regulations and haggling. Banks did his part in funding the station by selling off plots of lands and businesses he and the Masons owned in Detroit. In the end, Banks managed to open WGPR with around $4 million in cash on hand.
WGPR’s call letters stood for “Where God’s Presence Resonates” and both original and syndicated programming was a part of the station’s lineup. However, the station’s most popular programs were the “Arab Voice of Detroit” talk show and dance program, “The Scene.”
Because of its niche programming, WGPR remained on the low-end of ratings for the Detroit Metro but became profitable at one point despite the competition. However, technology and time passed WGPR by as it didn’t boast a television signal on par with its larger rivals. Much to the dismay of Black viewers and others who wished to see the business thrive, WGPR sold its assets to CBS in 1995.
The station’s “The Scene” program retains a cult following to this day.