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Percy Sutton Dies

Media entrepreneur, civil rights pioneer

Percy Sutton, the founder of Inner City Broadcasting, died this week at age 89.

Early in his career, the civil rights pioneer and attorney represented Malcolm X before his foray into broadcast ownership.

Along with his brother Oliver, Sutton bought WLIB(AM), New York in 1971. That purchase made it the first black-owned radio station in New York, according to the New York Times.

In 1974, Sutton and his investors bought WBLS(FM); the group, Inner City Broadcasting, grew to own, at various times, 18 radio stations in other cities and cable franchises in Queens and Philadelphia, reported the Times.

“His stations gave voice to African-American concerns in numerous local communities, and provided opportunities for minorities seeking employment in the broadcast industry,” stated Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps. “Sutton’s pioneering Inner City Broadcasting became the model upon which others have worked to build successful broadcast enterprises,”

Copps said he would cherish Sutton’s legacy. His comments come as the commission turns its attention to revising media ownership rules in 2010.

“At a time when minority ownership of broadcast stations has reached woeful single digits, I trust we will remember the legacy of Percy Sutton and the importance of diversity in media ownership,” Copps continued. “I hope also that we will re-dedicate our efforts to improving ownership diversity of media outlets so that they will truly reflect the rich cultural diversity of all our nation’s citizens.”

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